Even though I’m getting ready to train for the Eugene Marathon in the spring, I have always been a middle distance runner rather than a long distance runner. Throughout high school and college I specialized in events that were at or below a mile, and after I finished running track in college, I figured I’d have to transition over to longer distances if I wanted to compete in local races.
If you’re a middle distance runner out there, you feel my pain. You know that all the 5k and 10k road races are doable, but not nearly as quick and fun as an 800m or a 1500m, or even a 400m. But there’s now a road race out there that is giving us middle-distance runners a break from the miles, and longer-distance runners a chance to give some speedier stuff a go.
On October 13th, the Inaugural Nick Symmonds 800m will be held in Springfield. This race is going to be awesome for so many reasons. First, it’s an 800m, which, if you prefer shorter and faster races as opposed longer and stronger, it’s the first road race in our community that is finally catering to your preferred distance. And, even if you do prefer long and steady, this race could be an exciting change of pace for you—literally and figuratively.
So we’re clear, even though it’s an 800m, it’s still truly a road race; there’s no track involved. The course is a straight shot down 5th street in downtown Springfield, giving a quick race that is normally two laps the potential to be even faster.
The event, which benefits Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Lane County, was created by Nick Symmonds, a two-time Olympian and five-time USA champ in the 800m, whom also happens to be a Springfield resident. There will be different waves of races to keep things tidy (and trample-free): men’s and women’s waves for elite, masters, adult open, a youth wave, and walker’s wave.
I think that what makes an 800m road race so fantastic is that everyone in the community can participate and enjoy it. Elite runners can show off their speed, while runners in the open waves can test theirs. Even if you don’t consider yourself a runner, everybody can run or walk an 800m (which is a half mile) without any training at all. Heck, your grandparents could even come along for the walker’s wave.
As fun as participating will be, I think being a spectator at this event will be just as enjoyable as well. While you might normally have to pay to watch elite and masters compete at places such as Hayward field, this will give everyone an opportunity to come and watch regardless of whether they’ve entered the races.
Oh, and speaking of having fun outside of just racing, did I mention that there will be a community party as well? Music and food will be there at 1 PM and the waves will begin at 2 PM. Which brings me to another point of why this race is unique—instead of having to wake up early on a Saturday to participate, like every road race ever, you get to sleep in. Ahhh.
So you get to run with an Olympian, sleep in, go to a party all at once, and you don’t even have to run that far! Sounds like a blast to me. And who knows? Maybe the idea of a middle distance road race will catch on and we’ll begin to see more variety in the kinds of races held in our area. The northwest has stuck rather closely to the 5k, 10k and marathon format for road races.
That being said, and despite how much I’ve talked about how great 800ms are, I do enjoy long distance too (I’m running a marathon this spring to prove it). There are some very fun 5k+ races with creative themes, and I am in no way trying to hate on long distance races. What I am trying to say is that some more diversity, perhaps by the way of some more speed-oriented distances, would be appreciated, and I think Nick Symmonds is bringing that to our region in a really cool way.
You can get more information and register for the Springfield 800m here. Hope to see you guys out there in two weeks. Until then, I’ll see you on the trails!