For runners, the term PR, alluding to a “personal record” or “personal best,” is as much a part of the runner’s identity as his or her form, inherent speed or choice of running shoe. One’s PR can be worn on the sleeve or played close to the vest. Best of all, a PR is malleable. It could be “my best open 100 time in college,” or it might be “my best 5K since turning 50 and rehabbing from knee surgery.”
A PR is a runner’s ultimate hope, a cherished heritage, an inescapable burden, an indelible brand, or simply another reason to run on any given day. And at Godiva Track Club’s Summer Track Series on Wednesday evenings on UNC’s Belk Track, there are as many reasons to run as there are runners on the track, many looking to reclaim a tiny taste of their glory days and some creating new ones.
Now in its 41st year, the weekly meets offer a menu of different races in events ranging from 100-meter dashes to 5K’s. Meets began in May and run for eight more weeks, finishing up on Aug. 3.
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 70s and 80s. All ability level and all age runners are welcome – Godiva members and non-members alike – and $1 donations are welcome, but not required.
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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 15 (tonight), June 29, July 13, and July 27, 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 June 22, July 6, and August 3, will offer three heats of the 1500-meter run, the 100-meter dash (in lanes), a 1500-meter racewalk, 400-meter dash (in lanes), and a 3000-meter run (7 ½ laps, or just under two miles).
Runners self-seed the heats at all meets according to their own competitive expectations. 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 compete in at least three-quarters of the races (no more than four per meet) over the series earn the prestigious Godiva Ironman award.
Longtime Godiva Summer Series meet director Charles Alden said that the meets are following the traditional format this year, with the exception of one midsummer meet on July 20, when events will follow a special theme.
“The theme this year is ‘Glory Days,’” Alden said. “We’ll have a two-mile, and we’ll have a race that’s 2016 inches, which is 56 yards. Then we’ll have a sheet where people write down their lifetime PR. We’ll also have our very popular 4x400 relay and a 1K run.”
Alden said the turnout this season has been only slightly lower than in past years.
“It’s been in the seventies maybe, and that’s a manageable number, but last year we were getting around 100 or 120,” he said. “It usually does pick up slightly if we get any (local media) coverage though.”
Runner William Schmitz said the turnout usually evens out over the years.
“Every year there are a few of the usual suspects, a few new runners, and some of the ones from last year are gone,” said Schmitz, who was testing out his injured calf with a few races this past Wednesday.
“Tonight was part of the test,” he said. “I ran the first ever race on the Pinehurst Golf Course, and I got to mile two, and (injured my calf). It was the hills.”
For recent Chapel Hill High graduate Jessi Szymczak, last Wednesday’s goal was to walk a better race, competing in the 1500-meter racewalk.
“I got some extra tips from some people before starting the race, so my mind was in a better place than when I tried this last year,” she said.
Summer Series veteran Tina Clossick said this year would be about moving from distance to speedwork.
“I’ve been training for half-marathons, and I haven’t been doing any speed yet,” she said. “I’m afraid I’m going to pull something, so I’m working my way down (from distance). Last year I was more comfortable doing the shorter distances. Some people just come out and run the 100-meter and 400-meter runs, which is great too.”
Ultimately, Clossick said she hoped the training would improve her 5K (3.1-mile) time.
“I’d really like to run around 21:00 in a 5K,” she said.
Founded in 1975, Godiva was named for the Coventry Godiva Track Club in England by its founders – two UNC graduate students. The Summer Series, began just three years after Godiva was founded.
Godiva offers numerous training programs for those who are new or returning to running. The club, now well established in the Durham community as well as Chapel Hill, also presents popular running events like its fall cross-country season races, a slate of winter cross-country runs, and regularly scheduled group runs most days of the week.
More information is available through the Godiva website at www.carolinagodiva.org/.
Old school “Glory Days” PRs are not required at Summer Series events, but new ones are always welcome.
A “long night” schedule of events, which will be offered on June 15, June 29, July 13, and July 27, consists of a mile run (usually 3 heats), 200-meter dash, a one-mile racewalk, several heats of the 800-meter run, and a 5K run.
“Short nights,” offered on June 22, July 6, and Aug. 3, 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.