When I set out for the start of my running adventures back in 2014, the first run I ever signed up for was the Pear Blossom. I went big and registered for the 10-miler even though I had never in my nearly 40 years of living run more than 5 miles. Go big or go home, they say. Right?
I signed up in January 2014, trained for several months, and when it came time to run the Pear in April...
Horrible. Terrible. The training was dreadful. I ended up hurting my hip so badly I could barely walk for several weeks. I felt fatigued, frustrated, and disappointed. I recall the morning of the race, nervously taping up my broken body with KT tape and athletic tape. I wrapped my blistered feet (I trained in the wrong pair of shoes, don't ever do that!) and went into the run, wondering if I would even finish. I managed to get to Mile 7 ok, but the last three miles might as well have been 300 miles. I walked the last two, and I remember when I passed my wife on the homestretch screaming out how terrible the experience was. And it truly was.
But you learn something through anguish. As I crossed the finish line that Saturday in just over 2:00, I learned that it didn't matter because I had completed the run. I set out to run 10 miles, and I did just that. There is a picture of me crossing, and I have the biggest smile on my face! It's a moment that I remember feeling both exhilaration and relief. No other run has provided me with that same feeling. Why? Because growing up in Medford, the Pear Blossom Run was an event for the elite, in my mind. Run 10 miles? Are you nuts? I remember watching runners stagger in as a kid moments before the start of the parade and thinking how incredible that feat they just accomplished was. Would I do that one day? No way.
Running is an interesting activity because nothing in life will get you the extreme feelings that a simple jog will do. You could have a myriad of emotions, and no matter what, a simple 4-6 mile run will make you happy for the rest of the day. The combination of runner's high and the mental accomplishment of running a certain distance will give you the energy and the drive to go forth in your day. All of us humans who are mobile are designed to run. It's in our DNA, literally. We are one of the few mammals who can literally jog for miles. Our ancestors would run after prey and, in most cases, wear them down to feed their tribe. Because the world is now more convenient, the need for most people to run is not necessary. This is why 85% of the world is overweight. In the time it would take me to jog three miles to a destination, I could be there and home in a car. The thing about running consistently is being in shape is an incredible feeling. For example, when I showed up late to pick up my daughter the other day, I had to park nearly a mile away from her school. I got out and jogged, and instead of taking me 15 minutes, it took me eight. I was barely breathing when I got to her classroom. That's the dividends.
This brings me back to the Pear. After that horrible run in 2014, I did not swear off running. Instead, I signed up for a Half Marathon in the fall. I also signed up for the next five Pears before COVID shut down in 2020 and 2021. In 2019, I PRed with a time of 1:35. My goal that day was to get under 1:40. Which was an amazing day. I ran it again in 2022 (1:42) but ran a conservative run because I ran with Markus, who did not train. He's a complete stud, so no doubt we could have run under 1:40 had I not held us back. Why is the Pear my favorite run? Well, its history goes back to when I was a kid. But it also represents that proverbial Mount Everest for the novice runner. When I tell someone to sign up for it, the immediate reaction is a squishy face and "no way!" which was probably me prior to 2014 had someone presented the idea of running it. The run itself usually attracts nearly 1,000 runners of all shapes and sizes. Of all speeds and cadences. The course itself, which starts in downtown Medford, heads up West Main street and connects with Hanley Road. It's a flat 3.50 miles, but one needs to be cognizant not to go too fast. Once you turn right on Hanley, an old country road, it's another mile and a half of flat before tackling the course's only hill. The hill is not terrible, but it comes right at the halfway point, and it can bite you if you don't focus. The first ascent is not bad. You descend to the bottom of the hill where it connects with Rossannly Drive and then turn around and go back up. The second ascent is longer (about .50 of a mile), and if you are not prepared, it's a thigh buster. Many people walk the second ascent. As you come down, this is where the run will prove to be a bit deceptive. For one thing, you are nearly an hour into the run, and often the temperatures are getting warm. Keep in mind this is the first weekend in April, so it can be 75 degrees, as it was the first year I ran it, or it could be low 50s. No one is prepared for the heat. A 75-degree morning can feel like 100 degrees pretty quickly. The six and seven-mile markers are the toughest because it's a mental fight as you head back on Hanley road. No, it's not hilly, for me, it's trying to get back on West Main and that mental fight with myself to maintain a solid pace. Once you turn on West Main, it's a straight shot back to the finish. Mile 8 is a welcome sight and Mile 9, which is right next to the Black Bird, means you get that second wind as you make that final push. The first time I ran the Pear, that final push on Main Street was grueling. I remember people telling me repeatedly that I was "almost there!" and I fought the urge to walk. In other years, this was where I pushed myself hard to get that PR. I also scooped up my daughter in 2018 and ran across the finish line with her. The YMCA means you have just the turn onto Oakdale and about a 500-yard sprint to the finish in front of the courthouse. Most years, hundreds of people will line both sides of the street and cheer you on as though you were a soldier returning from war. I was once one of those people, and I remember watching those runners come in and thinking, "holy cow!"
All toll, I have run seven Pears. I have run two with Markus and one with Michael. Though the Pear often comes in the middle of training for a marathon, which means I don't get nervous, I still get flutters before the cannon is fired off. Definitely more relaxed, though, than I was when I first started in 2014. I don't really have a goal in mind for the Pear anymore. As long as my body will allow me to run, I will sign up for the Pear and keep going. It would be cool to look back and say I ran 10 of them or 15. I have already created wonderful memories with this run, though. It was the Pear in 2015 that completely turned Markus around. When I got him in November of 2014, he was a kid who had no confidence and no purpose. I remember asking him, a natural runner and a gifted athlete if he would like to run the Pear, and he surprised me by saying yes. With little training, he ran 1:28. It also made him believe he could do other things in his life. I ran that year in a 15-minute PR. There were lots of smiles at the finish line in 2015. Markus also ran in 2016 on a sprained ankle. I ran with Michael in 2018, and he and I bonded over training leading up to the run. My son lost a lot of weight and gain some confidence as well. We were a couple of large, former offensive linemen chugging toward the finish.
Wonderful memories. This is why that first Saturday in April, going forward, the odds are good I will be in the starting chute. I can't tell you what my time will be, but I will tell you that it will be a good day.
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