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Another running anecdote

No training to report for today.  Instead, a day spent trying to detect pain in my arch whenever I walked around.  There's barely anything to note, but I'll stick with the plan to leave it for another few days before walking any distance.

I thought I would share another old running anecdote.  Below is an article I wrote that appeared in the June 1986 Victorian Marathon Club Newsletter about an event I had run while travelling in the US.


After an hour's drive in gale-force winds and heavy showers we arrived at the apartment in Sunset, the suburb next to Golden Gate Park, where Australian friends Martin and Veronica were staying, and then we all journeyed by tram into downtown San Francisco.  We arrived at the Hyatt Regency hotel on the Embarcadero 45 minutes before the scheduled 6:00pm race start and entered (with the exception of Veronica) for the St Valentine's Day Striders Fun Run.

Out for a jog in San Francisco more recently.
We were looking forward to competing on the four mile heart-shaped course through the downtown area - particularly Martin who had recently performed well as a guest in the Canadian World Cross Country Trial (where he distinguished himself by running the last half with his gloves stuffed down the front of his jocks, after deciding that frostbitten hands were preferable to risking the family lineage) - but wondered how the organisers were going to police the course.  Not only was it Friday night peak hour, but also the start of a long weekend and it was going to be dark.

In the Race Director’s preamble he informed us that this was a “stride”, not a “race”, and those running too fast would find that they beat the marshals to the corners (of which there were fourteen) – sigh!  Our sentiments were obviously shared by other “runners” among the 100 entries, who included Laurie Binder, former winner of Sydney’s City to Surf, but not by other “striders” who included people dressed in street clothes and even in oilskins.

The crowded streets of downtown San Francisco where the
1986 St Valentines Day Run was held
(I can't remember the route).
The route was complicated so the three of us each grabbed a map to carry.  The course began by crossing the busy six-lane Embarcadero.  A couple of officials (they were the last I saw for a long time) pushed the pedestrian crossing button, dashed out into the road waving at the traffic to stop, and signalled the starter to begin the race.  Miraculously, nobody died at this first obstacle, but the traffic had another excellent opportunity as the participants strung out along the gloomy main road running with their backs to the oncoming cars.  Martin was fortunate (and fit) and found himself sharing the lead with two runners who knew where they were going.  I was less fortunate (and less fit), and being 100 metres off the pace, lost sight of them in the dark and finally had to slow at an intersection to wait for the following bunch.  When they arrived, I discovered they knew as much as me, but were less well-equipped – no maps.  From that point, I was the “Pied Piper”, leading with my map, and shouting “Right on Powell”, “Left on Taylor”, etc., as we dashed across intersections and roads, dodging cars and cable-cars – it was becoming good fun.

Many runners got lost or cut the course short.  Barb saw one runner miss a turn and continue towards the Pacific.  The organisers kindly included some of San Francisco’s steepest hills as well as a flight of over 100 steps and the race finished down the precipitous California Street, with cross-roads every 100 metres – no sprint finishes.  Martin, Barb and I all found ourselves just running in with whoever we happened to be with at the time.  The Finish was “low key” to say the least.  We turned the corner into Justin Herman Plaza, saw an official standing there all on his own, asked him where the finish line was, and were informed we had just crossed it.

Later, some refreshments were provided and a draw held for some nice prizes.  A unique and amusing experience was capped for the evening when I won a bottle of champagne and two fine crystal glasses.