Sunset in the Park 2.8M/4.8M – 1998

September 3, 1998

In mid-August I moved to Long Beach.  I went from 99+ degrees out to a more temperate climate.  Jennifer drove down with me and helped me move my stuff.  My Mom drove my car down (I drove the moving truck) and her friend Mary met us at the condo to help get stuff inside before I had to move the truck onto the street.

Through “The Schedule,” I noted there were a couple of clubs in Long Beach – Team Runners High (TRH), which ran Tuesdays and Thursdays, and A Running Experience Club (AREC) which ran on Wednesdays.  Before I got settled in and found running clubs, I went on a planned vacation with my cousins to Idaho for a 10-day rafting trip (kind of like a HUGE taper).

When I came back, I tried TRH on a Thursday run.  There were mostly only fast people there (really fast people).  Since I didn’t know the area, I kept having to wait for slower (read:  10 minute milers) to tell me where to go.  Not a great first impression.

The following week I gave AREC a try – there were only 6 runners there, but all of them were very friendly.  There was even a goofy 6’9″ fellow, to make me feel not so tall.  The following week, I tried the TRH Tuesday run, which was in Signal Hill… a nice challenge, as there are really no hills in Davis at all.  Our “hill training” consisted of skipping over freeway overpasses, to simulate running up difficult hills.  Some people in both clubs suggested I run the Sunset in the Park Cross Country race on Thursday in Huntington Beach, so I decided to give it a go.

Sunset in the Park offered a couple of things I hadn’t had a lot of experience with previously:  one, cross country running; and two, back-to-back races.

The first race was 2.8 miles (a little shorter than a 5K) and started at 6:00pm.  The second race, 4.8 miles (a little shorter than a 5 miler), started at 6:30pm.  If you could run faster than 10 minute miles (plus or minus), you could run both races.  There was even a prize for best combined time in Masters and Submasters Divisions (separate age groups in the separate races, however).  It was an interesting trick to not go all out in the first race and have less left for the second race.

Generally, the people who did better in the combined standings, usually picked up the time difference in the second race.  It wasn’t helpful to outsprint someone to pick up a few seconds in the first race, if you had nothing left for the second.  Having never tried a “double” before, I ran 20:02 in the first race (7:08 pace) and 39:05 in the second race (8:07).  I was 78th in the first race and 82nd in the second race, but 10th in the combined.

The timing system for this race was archaic at best.  Each runner had a number without a tear-off tag.  If you were running the 2.8M race, you had a thin nametag sticker stapled to your number (which had your name on it, a corresponding sticker for your age group, and your name highlighted pink (if you were female), blank if you were male).  If you were running the 4.8M race, then you had a second thin name tag sticker stapled on, but the sticker was a different color.

When you finished each race, you were handed a numbered index card.  You removed the sticker and placed it on the index card and handed it to the tabulators.  They then placed your card on a wooden numbered board.  Then for the age division results, a tabulator would come through with the sheet to fill out and look at the color of sticker on the index card.  Woebetide the registerer who put the wrong gender or wrong age on the name tag, because it fouled up the results.  Times were on a print-out to the right of the index card results.  So, to find your own result, you counted down the number of same age, same gender stickers, and then looked to the times at the right.

Obviously, to record the times on the internet would be very time-consuming, and so the race company, Finishline International would just list the top 3 finishers in the race.  I found this annoying (because those were the very people who didn’t care all that much about seeing their results online).  Regardless, I really liked this race, both for the cross country aspect, the camaraderie associated with a smaller race, and the challenge of running two races in a row.

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