As running season is hitting its full stride, we find ourselves contemplating our next race.
In this age of “bigger is better,” we find ourselves out of step, favoring the small races over the large, well-publicized ones – the Grand Prix races. Not that there is anything wrong with the large races; we just enjoy the smaller ones. We generally look for races which have interesting courses, in interesting towns, and which are often tied in with a town festival. This sort of race tends to sport a character all its own. It also tends to be an endangered species.
Small races face the dangers of not enough volunteer support, not enough revenue, or not enough runner support. They can also be overshadowed by nearby big name races. An irony is that a danger to a small race can be too much success, when it changes the character of the race.
Do notice that we’ve been italicizing small, as character is more important than size in our “Not-So-Grand Prix” races.
As an example of a Not-So-Grand Prix race which, to our knowledge, is no longer in existence, we offer you The Six Mile Mountain Challenge, so named because:
a) it took place in Six Mile
b) the race went exactly six miles
c) it climbed Six Mile Mountain, circled the top, and descended again
d) it was a challenge to the runners.
The t-shirt one year offered a drawing of Mercury ascending Six Mile Mountain. The refreshments were home-made and served in a church gym. There were no trophies. The overall and age group winners instead received potted plants. (We replanted ours in the garden and were reminded of the race every time we saw it.) There were no drag vehicles or lead autos, but a fire truck was on hand for medical emergencies. There was no starter pistol; the race organizer’s small son hit some caps on the pavement with a hammer to start the race. And there was no digital telemetry to time the runners. In the words of the race organizer, “We don’t have any of that fancy finish line technology. What we DO have is a CPA with a really good stop watch.” Those were Six Miles of Smiles.
Note: Next month, we shall put together our own version of a “Grand Prix.” We’ll call it our “Not-So-Grand Prix.” If you have suggestions for enjoyable races, please let us know via the comments section in our on-line magazine or by letter.