A mile in my shoes

by • July 2, 2013 • ToastComments (0)933

Big Wild Life Runs gets A-plus for bringing back iconic race


A runner enjoys the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail at sunset with the Alaska Range in the background. By Kevin G. Smith-Alaska Stock

A runner enjoys the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail at sunset with the Alaska Range in the background. By Kevin G. Smith-Alaska Stock

I still remember the first time I ran the mile. I was in fifth grade, and Mrs. Foster, my teacher, challenged our class to race it. Everyone jumped and cheered and fist-bumped until she pointed out that the route would follow along the perimeter of the baseball diamond out to the fields behind our school not once, or twice, but three times.

Enthusiasm waned at the distance, but we gamely took off, sprinting foolishly at sub 4-minute paces for about 100 yards (it was all measured in yards back then, no silly meters to worry about). One by one, kids began to slow, walk and eventually stop altogether. But James, Angie, Randy and I kept going. I was an extremely competitive little kid, all elbows and angles and half the size of my classmates. I wouldn’t have minded losing to Angie – she was my best friend, after all – but to lose to a boy like James or Randy was simply unacceptable.

I churned my arms and pistoned my legs – I still remember the feel of the bumpy terrain on the ballfield’s outer perimeter – and kept long, lanky-limbed James in my sights. Randy and Angie had fallen back; now, the race was on.

More than 30 years later, I remember this as a Chariots of Fire moment – I’m passing James right at the finish line, and he’s looking dejected after being beat by a girl. I have no idea if that’s the reality, but I do know I won. And in that moment, I became a lifelong runner.

This month, we bring you the Big Wild Life Runs annual race guide (beginning on Page 27), the highlight of which is its introduction of The Anchorage Mile, a new race that showcases this iconic American distance of 1,760 yards (or, for you meter conversionists, 1,609.34 meters).

It’s about time we started giving this fast and fun race its due. It was the race of choice for such American greats as Steve Prefontaine, Norman Taber and Jim Ryun. The Bring Back the Mile movement is spreading across the United States. Learn more at www.bringbackthemile.com – or race it yourself at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 17, at the Delaney Park Strip.

Of course, we do have more to offer in Coast this month than just running. July is an incredible time of never-ending activity, with fishing season at its height (check out all of the fishing Valdez has to offer, Page 9) and bike riding galore (The Big Wild Ride, Page 8, is the ultimate challenge; try downhill mountain biking at Alyeska, Page 6; or be wowed by the prowess of some of the world’s best handcycle racers in the Sadler’s Alaska Challenge, beginning on Page 11).

Salmonstock, a forum for the protection of wild salmon and their habitat, is gaining national acclaim. What a way to celebrate this natural resource and listen to great music all in one weekend (beginning on Page 19).

Today, I still run the mile, and then some. I haven’t raced anyone at that distance in a long time, but I suspect if I did, there would be plenty of people who would pass me.

That’s OK, though. For those who truly love running, for those whom the Big Wild Life Runs is the high point of their summer, it’s about putting one foot in front of the other. For whatever reason, we are drawn to the simple act of running, that rush of adrenaline and that heady feeling you get after pushing yourself to the limit – no matter how fast you go.


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