Published: Jun 12, 2012 06:00 PM
Modified: Jun 11, 2012 12:26 PM
Godiva meets the need for speed
To borrow from Douglas MacArthur, “Old sprinters never die, they simply fade away … into the swarms at starting lines of local road races.”For the over-21 set, there are 4Ks, 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons, and marathons. You can also choose from ultra-marathons, obstacle course runs, duathlons, and triathlons. You can run for money, for donuts, or for ice cream.Want to run for a cause? There’s a race for that.But if you’re an adult in longing for the report of a starter’s pistol and the sweeping arc of a staggered 200-meter dash, you’ll find that they’re few and far between.That scarcity is just one of the things that makes the Carolina Godiva Track Club’s Summer Track Series so special.“This is the one chance (local) sprinters have, I think, to run in an open meet,” Godiva’s Summer Series meet director Charles Alden said. “It’s really rare: except for the North Carolina State Games, most runs are road races and trail runs.”The Godiva Summer Series weekly track meet races begin at 7 p.m., rain or shine (barring lightning) Wednesday nights, with events ranging from 100-meter dashes to 12-plus-lap 5K races. The meets are open to everyone – Godiva members and nonmembers alike – and though contributions (usually $1) are accepted, there’s no fee to run.Founded in 1975, Godiva Track Club has hundreds members of all ages and abilities, and the club welcomes new members. The club was named for the Coventry Godiva Track Club in England, from which one of the two founding UNC graduate students was familiar.Godiva offers an annual Running Start program for those who are new or returning to the sport, and its Marathon Training Program was the first of its kind locally. The club also presents popular running events like the Umstead Marathon and a series of winter cross-country runs. There are regularly scheduled group runs most days of the week. More information is available through the Godiva website at www.carolinagodiva.org.The Summer Series meets started in 1978, just three years after the club was founded. The meet began at UNC, migrated to Duke’s Wallace Wade Stadium, moved to the Durham Academy track in Durham in the late 1990s, and made its way back to UNC in 2008.“I remember that used to run on the old track here,” said Mike Valle, who has been participating in the track events since the very first meets. “Then it was a Mondo track surface, but it wasn’t of any quality. There were ruts in lane one.”Alden said the latest move back to the UNC track has attracted bigger crowds to the meets.“Our attendance has gone way up (since returning to UNC),” he said. “It’s been a very positive response. In our first week this year, we had over a hundred people,” Alden said, noting Wednesday’s meet drew about 115.Another key to the success of Godiva’s Summer Series is that it shows no partiality for gender, ability or age.“We’ve got runners from 2 to 80 years old,” Alden said.Runners self-seed the heats according to their own expectations. Young children typically run first, and the competitive level escalates with each successive heat, often with elite talent gracing the final races.“It’s pretty amazing to look at the times, too,” Alden said.Valle, in his 70s, said remaining injury-free has been the biggest factor in his ability to continue participating throughout four decades of the meets.“The key is just to stay healthy,” he said.While some seek to rediscover speed in race distances they haven’t run since high school or college, others use the speed as part of training for longer races.Fresh off the grueling Rim to Rim to Rim (over-and-back) Grand Canyon ultra-run earlier this year, Tina Weiler was hoping to inject more speed into her workouts.“Tonight, I ran two of the 1500s,” she said. “I’ll run the 400-meter, and then the 3K.”Even Weiler, it seemed, had her limits, however.“If I ran the 100-meter dash I’d probably tear something right now,” she said, laughing.Some others who’ve found their way to the UNC’s Belk Track Wednesday evenings had never run before Godiva. Laura Ramsdell learned about the meets through her boyfriend.“I’m not officially a runner, I guess,” she said. “I started running a couple years ago because my boyfriend’s a runner.”With each race at each meet, Ramsdell has gracefully stumbled upon totally new territory.“When I started running, I couldn’t even run 10 minutes,” she admitted. “Now, when I put myself in a heat and finish ahead of people, I’m surprising myself. Races scare me to death, but it’s really fun.”Running is also relatively new for Katie Carpenter, primarily because she’s 12-years old.“I also did this last year. I did OK,” Carpenter said. “It’s just for fun.”The races will continue throughout most of the summer, featuring schedules of events which alternate every other week.A “long night” schedule of events, which will be offered June 13, and again June 27, July 11, and Aug. 1, consists of a mile run , 200-meter dash , a one-mile race/walk, several heats of the 800-meter run, and a 5K run.“Short nights,” offered June 20, July 5, July 18, and Aug. 8, will offer the 1500-meter run, 100-meter dash, a 1500-meter race/walk, 400-meter dash, and a 3000-meter run (just under 2 miles). The July 5 meet runs on the Thursday of that week due to a conflict with the July 4 celebration and fireworks scheduled for Kenan Stadium. “The one that’s always different is the Midsummer Madness meet (July 25), which will have a 100-yard dash and a 2-mile run,” Alden noted. “It’s the old-time races. We’ll also have a 4x400 relay which is very popular.”Runners at the “Old School” meet July 25 are encouraged to wear T-shirts or clothes to show allegiance to their old high schools or colleges.Runners should also be on the lookout this summer for Godiva’s Marathon Training Program registration. The club outreach program is offered annually from August through November for those preparing for mid-to-late fall marathons and half-marathons.Details about the program will be posted on the club’s website in early July.
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