While spinning this morning, I started thinking (stop it! I do that every so often). The Buzz Oates No Excuses 5k is coming up on Monday, and for the life of me, I can't think of any 5k I've ever done that I enjoy more. This will be my third straight year, which is rare for me, after first running this bad boy in 2009. It also got me thinking about my favorites at other distances, and why that is. Is it the speedy courses? Hills? The scenery? PRs? Is there, say, a world class brewery next door (see below)? In the end, it ends up being a bit of all of those things. Obviously, with limited exposure, especially at the longer distances, there are races I'm missing. If you've got a favorite or favorites, put em in the comment section (yes, you can do that without having a blogger profile)...who knows, you may turn someone on to what will become their favorite race.
*less than 5k: for this catergory, most races are run on the track, and it may be hard to seperate one from another. I don't have a clear favorite here. I never got to run anywhere like, say, Hayward Field in Eugene. I think Chico St, Humboldt, Stanford, and American River JC had nice tracks/stadiums, and we got to travel to Citrus College for state in SoCal and run on the track where the Montreal scenes were filmed for Prefontaine, so that was cool. There's a few short road races I've done that were cool too...the Firecracker Mile, Truckee, CA, July 4th. This is a unique race in that it's downhill for the first 2/3rds, but at about 6300 feet, so beware. Go out too fast and the lack of oxygen will get you. I learned this the hard way in 2000. After getting out dueled at the end, it was so bad my TEETH hurt. But it hurt so good. Honorable mention: New Year's Eve Run (2 miles) Sacramento. Ran at Cal Expo the last time I ran it in 2000/2001. Beat Regina Jacobs (in her off-season I'm sure) before she was outed as a steroid cheat. Running in the dark is cool. Fitch Mountain Footrace (3k) Healdsburg, CA. Will be going back to this race, and neighboring Bear Republic & Russian River Brewing Companies in 3 weeks for the third year running. There's a 10k too.
5k: The most often run distance, but No Excuses was the clear favorite. William Land Park is seemingly custom made for this kind of thing. The course is flat and fast, always well marked and timed, and there's a decent size & competitive field (but not too big). The age and gender grading in the final results give another level of uniqueness to this already awesome race. Can't wait for Monday.
Honorable Mention: Chevy's 5k (Chico &/or Sacramento). This was once an awesome race series, before they got cheap, and I was sad to see it's demise. Ran Sac in 1999 & 2000, and Chico in 1999. Bidwell Classic (Chico, CA) while Chevy's ran from Chevy's and part of the way into lower Bidwell, this one is all in the park, and is just the right size without being too much for the paths, is competitive, and it's just a nice place to run. Davis Turkey Trot.
7k/8k: easy...Bridge to Bridge (also a 12k). Although dimished in size by about 60-70% since I first ran it in the late nineties (record size of about 13,000 in 2000) it's still a large, awesome race. You get to run by many SF landmarks on a course with just one hill and a slight uphill finish, and surprise a few early morning tourists on the way.
Honorable Mention: Shamrock Run (Portland)
10K: another easy pick for me. The Lake Tahoe 10k, run in conjunction with the Marathon events, is just plain awesome. From the view to the course to the people, a great race all around. I still remember flipping the channels a few days after the race - we were watching Rocky IV - and nearly choking on my food when I saw Fox Sports Bay area cut from the marathon leaders to yours truly, leading the 10k pack. I never did get a copy of that footage though. I also haven't been back since running a double 5k/10k in 2000 (it's expensive, but worth it), but I'm planning on it this fall.
Honorable Mention (loaded field): Salmon Run, Nevada City (one of my favorite trail races of all time, RIP. Run Through the Colors, Nevada City (the name says it all). Mare Island to Medusa, Vallejo, CA (for roughly the price of a ticket, we got into the race, were paced by a Corvette, and got entry into the park, in the off-season with ridiculously short lines. A great day made better by our manliest of friends Tom Davidson, known locally as SANDALMAN, after he barfed on the Tazmanian Devil). Run For the Community, Nevada City - sensing a pattern with awesome 10ks in Nevada City. LOVE the course.
12k+: Houlihan's/Across the Bay 12k, San Francisco. Always a fan of the Bay area runs. This one is elite, starts in Sausalito, and after a climb, takes you over the Golden Gate...finishing in the other direction along part of the Bridge to bridge course by Aquatic Park.
Half Marathon: Road? Gotta be Rock N Roll Arizona. Geb set a world record that day, and for about what a concert ticket cost, I got into the race AND got to see one of my favorite bands, Collective Soul, outdoors that night! Trail? Haulin Aspen, Bend, OR. Anytime you get me near Deschutes Brewing, I'm a happy guy, but even though I had a rough time in the race, it was an awesome course, and an even better shirt :) Honorable mention: Bizz Jhonson, a return to my JC alma matter & old stomping grounds, manages to be scenic and kinda sorta fastish. XTerra Hawaii World Championships was pretty cool too - just cause I was out of shape doesn't mean the race wasn't a great one!
Marathon: Again, limited exposure, but Napa has got to take the crown, although Redding is the only one I've returned to (twice after the 1st marathon for the relay). CIM (paced a buddy for half in 1998) is pretty cool too, and I'll have to do that one of these days along with BIZZ. If I'm ever healthy enough, I still plan on doing Boston in Yankees gear!
Ultra: again, limited, but I've done many a short course at an ultra. For me, though, TRT is king. The stretch of the Rim Trail and the Flume Trail between Spooner & Mt Rose is one of my favorite places to run anywhere. Add fully stocked aid stations to that & you've got a winning recipe.
Cross-Country: Stanford. Nationals, 1996. Running with (ie-getting my a** kicked by) the big boys was fun, and though I never ran particularly well on Stanford's golf course, it was custom made for cross country. When I see golf courses, I don't think golf, I want to put on my spikes.
Random distance trail runs: gotta love em! The standouts...the Squaw Valley Mountain Run, 3.6 miles stright up from Olympic Village to High Camp. Unfortunately, this race is a casualty of my torn tendons, so I haven't run it since 2000, but it's AAAAAWWWWEEEESSSSOOOMMMEEE! This year, we ran the Steep Ravine Trail runs, put on by Coastal Trail Runs. On part of the Dipsea course, this was simply one of the most scenic and fun trails I've EVER run on.