The Godiva Summer Track and Field series is simply one for the ages – all ages.
The Godiva Summer Series track meets, which offer a menu of different races on Wednesday nights in events ranging from 100-meter dashes to 5Ks, began this month and runs for 12 weeks, finishing up in August. Running each Wednesday on UNC’s Belk Track beginning at 7 p.m., the meets are open to anyone, including children as young as toddlers and men and women in their seventies and eighties.
Nor should Godiva Named for the Coventry Godiva Track Club in England by its two founding UNC graduate students, Godiva is now 39 years old. Even the Summer Series, which began just three years after Godiva was founded, is quickly approaching middle age. So, nope, no ageism here: it would simply be hypocritical.
“We’ll be doing the traditional format for the 12 weekly meets,” meet and summer series director Charles Alden said. “Everyone is welcome, and last year we had ages 2-to-76 participating.”
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“I’ve been running these meets since the late 1970s,” said Mike Valle, now in his early 70s, who left last week’s meet early – but only to save himself for participating as a shot putter, discus thrower and hammer thrower at a huge masters meet days later in Greenville.
“We take the family. It’s like a mini-vacation,” Valle said.
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 www.carolinagodiva.org/.
Over the decades, the meet, which 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.
Meet events follow two different schedules, separated into “long nights” and “short nights,” which run alternately throughout the summer.
A “long night” schedule of events, which will be offered on June 4, June 18, July 2, and July 16, consists of a mile run (usually 3 heats), 200-meter dash (in lanes), a one-mile racewalk, several heats of the 800-meter run, and a 5K (3.1-mile) run.
“Short nights,” offered on May 28, June 11, June 25, July9, July 23, and August 6, will offer three heats of the 1500-meter run, the 100-meter dash, a 1500-meter racewalk, 400-meter dash, and a 3000-meter run (just under two miles).
Runners self-seed the heats at all meets according to their own competitive expectations and personal bests. Young children typically run first, and the competition level escalates with each successive heat, often with elite talent gracing the final races in each event. Those who complete in at least four events per meet over the 12 week series earn the prestigious Godiva Ironman award.
On July 30, the series will stage its annual “Midsummer Madness” meet, which will offer a few different races to stir things up in the heat of the season.
“We’re calling our midsummer meet the ‘Mile-a-Minute Marathon’ meet,” Alden explained. “We’re having a 26.2-minute run, but we’ll also be having a 4x400-meter relay, and that’s always a really popular event.”
That meet will also feature a 1000-meter run, an 80-yard dash, and a Summer Stroll 1K racewalk.
For Valle, the summer series allows him to stay healthy and see old friends on a regular basis.
“I like seeing all of the old-timers of course,” he said, “but I also like to use these meets to challenge myself.”
First-time Summer Series runner Amanda LoPiccolo, who ran just over a five-minute mile on Wednesday, said she would use the meets to get back into better shape.
“The 5K is really my focus,” she explained, “but it’s always nice to get in a little speedwork here and get myself back into shape.”
Along with the start of the Summer Series, last week began with a look back at the previous year for Godiva members, complete with an awards dinner on Sunday, May 18.
“We had our age group awards, the winter series awards, and we also had awards for the fall cross-country season,” said longtime Godiva runner Jim Clabuesch, who helped to host the dinner. “It was a lot of fun, and the rain held off.”
At the banquet, Godiva honored three members for outstanding athletic performance or service to the club. The 2014 Female Runner of the Year was Louise Guardino, while earning Male Runner of the Year honors was Kevin Nickodem. Garnering the award for Volunteer of the Year was newsletter editor and Running Start program supporter Shauna Griffin.
Next up for the club will be the next incarnation of Godiva’s Marathon Training Program beginning in July if there is enough interest, followed by the autumn’s cross-country series.
“We’ll be having our cross-country program again,” said Clabuesch, who said the club was resurrecting the fall series after a 10-year absence. “Last year, we had four Wednesdays in October alternating on an outdoor trail at Duke and on the UNC cross-country course. One of the venues had a 5K, 8K, and 10K course, and the other had two of those three. We actually had a letter ‘G’ for Godiva, so we had letters we gave out to anyone who ran all four races.”
As for the summer series, Alden said all ability level and all age runners are welcome—Godiva members and non-members alike, and $1 donations are welcome but not required at a venerable meet that’s now going on “forty years running.”