January 2, 2011

Doug Hawley: Start year with realistic optimism

— With the new year here, optimistic runners look forward to what 2011 will bring. Like other people in society, runners set goals each year. But we always must remember the adage, “There is a difference in optimism and realism.”

You might be optimistic enough to believe that it is your fate to win the famous Boston Marathon, which occurs annually on the third Monday of April. Masses watch this event that takes place on Patriots Day.

If you cannot run a mile in less than five minutes on a flat track, your goal perhaps should be simply to qualify. The champion normally averages in the 4:50 range for the 26.2-mile jaunt over hill and dale.

Do not feel badly if you as a well-conditioned athlete fall short of an all-out five-minute mile. Even the best female runners from this area never have eclipsed that 1-mile time.

Boston’s qualifiers are accepted through times by age groups.

Since most serious distance runners compete year-round, there is no “true season.” Most would do well to scan the schedule for the next 12 months and decide on which races to train for peaking and those to simply “run through.”

With a dozen or so age divisions for males and females at most reputable races, there is a “fighting chance” for most participants to score. If not to win, to possibly place.

If you fall short there, take pride in your own personal being. Set your own time goal.

If you are a novice, finish that first 5-kilometer race. After the 3.1-mile run, aim to complete a 10K, and later maybe a 10-miler or half marathon.

Take pride that you are getting fit. Keep regular tabs on your weight.

To provide motivation, Carpet Capital Running Club’s annual banquet as usual will honor various age group placers from designated races last year. The event is set for 6 p.m. Jan. 22 at the Engine Room restaurant in Dalton.

For a second straight year, CCRC will honor the all-area high school cross country teams as selected recently by The Daily Citizen. Dalton sophomore Bekah Houston and Northwest Whitfield junior Jordan Jones were picked as Runners of the Year.

Let’s trust that the weather will be better this time. Last year, inclement weather in latter January forced a month’s postponement until latter February. Despite the delay, a record number of some 100 people turned out.

For perhaps the first time, Chattanooga Track Club is having its annual banquet at the same time. As a member going back to the 1970s, I have attended most of its year-end functions.

With prime allegiance to the local front, there will be an AWOL to the Volunteer State this year. Even Superman could not make both of these wonderful events at the same time.

Nevertheless, the next big race for many area runners will come Feb. 26 in Chattanooga at the annual Scenic City Half Marathon, set for 8 a.m. Activity starts and finishes at Finley Stadium.

Since longer Chattanooga races have been known to close out early, do not dawdle. Register soon through sceniccityhalfmarathon.com.

Let’s pray for a better start than 2010. Runners were all primed and ready for the 8 a.m. 13.1-mile race in sub-freezing 25-degree weather last year, but unfortunately, the computer system malfunctioned. As runners patiently (in most cases) waited, they finally received clearance 30 minutes later.

Despite such inconvenience to the frigid runners, the event raised more than $18,000 for Chattanooga charities, including Special Olympics.

Doug Hawley, a competitive distance runner for more than 50 years, can be contacted at Dhawley@optilink.us.