Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pear Blossom Weekend in the Rogue Valley

This last weekend a horde of Central Oregonians traveled over the pass to the Rogue Valley to compete in the 35th running of the Pear Blossom 10 miler held annually in Medford. For me, this race has become a special homecoming each year that I’m lucky enough to run it. It’s got a great following among the community in the Valley that very few races have aside from the major marathons. I love that it gets a front of the sports page preview article in the Mail Tribune the day before the race and a huge front of the sports page photo and two or three individual articles on the event winners the day after. In the Rogue Valley it’s become one of the premiere sporting events of the year.

As a graduate of Crater High School in Central Point I always followed “The Pear” winners each year and hoped that one day I could return and become one of the lucky few, following in the footsteps of greats like Frank Shorter and Rick Sayre (both “Pear” winners). Now I return each year to see my old teachers, classmates and friends I had growing up there. My old athletic director is the RD and has been for the last 20 years or so. My middle school principal yells out the one mile splits the same as he always has since I first ran back in 1997, and countless others that have been volunteering since I was just a wee lad. I was also fortunate enough to be the recipient of the Pear Blossom Scholarship in 1998 as I went off to college, a fund that goes to four area prep athletes involved in cross country each year. It’s been a great way for the community to be involved and give back to the Valley’s youth runners.

It’s an important race for me and it’s great to see that it continues to grow and meet the needs of the running community across the state. A testament to this is the number of Central Oregonians that made the trek including this year’s women’s champion Marci Klimek of Bend and graduate of Phoenix HS in Southern Oregon. There was a great group of Footzone Learn to Run Alumni including Jenniffer Smith, Stacy Case, Valerie Walkley, Patti Brown, and Pam Bicart with a few supportive husbands in tow. One of our CORK youth runners, Jessica Cornett, ran a 1:14. How amazing is that for a 13 yr old? And Frans Alajoki, a regular TPGer (Tuesday Performance Grouper) ran a 59:17 for 17th overall out of 1584 people. And there was still another half dozen or so Central Oregonians that ran that I haven’t mentioned. It was great to see so many familiar faces from the High Desert down in the valley for one of the biggest event of the year.

I made the trip over for my 6th and toughest “Pear” victory. Little did I know that Mike Reneau, a friend and sponsored runner from Corvallis, would show up to give me a great challenge. At 5 miles he had opened up a gap of 1:05 on me and I had to start reeling him in. Picking up the pace I pushed hard to catch him with only a mile to go. I was starting to get pretty nervous with 3 to go and Mike still a good 100m in front of me. With his help we ran the two fastest times in the “Pear” history as a 10 mile race. It was one of the sweetest “Pears” I’ve had the pleasure of running. (pun intended)


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