St. Valentine’s Day is traditionally a time for the young and old to celebrate love, share an embrace, bestow a red rose, and perhaps even steal a kiss.
This past Sunday at the Carolina Friends School north of Orange County’s Mount Sinai Road, nearly 60 rosy-cheeked runners in the Carolina Godiva Track Club’s “Geezer Pleezer” 4-miler celebrated their love of running by embracing the cold – all 17 degrees of it at race time.
“Today, the temperature is fine,” Godiva race director Tom Kirby insisted on Sunday morning. “Last year we had wind chills in the low teens.”
For the most part, racers agreed.
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“The ground was hard, so it was actually very nice for running,” said overall winner Chris Gould, 71. “There’s a section that’s muddy and usually very difficult, so I was able to run faster through there than I normally do. And it wasn’t too cold once you got into it.”
The annual Geezer Pleezer is handicapped based on each entrant’s age and gender, using standardized World Masters Athletics age-graded performance factors to determine how much of a head-start the runners would get, according to the rules laid out at www.carolinagodiva.org.
The race begins when the participant(s) having the most head-start time begin running, but the race clock only begins counting down from that point until the male 21-31 bracket takes off and the clock strikes 0:00. The clock then begins to count upwards. With age and gender factored into a head start, the first runner across the finish line wins.
If all competitors were of the same ability then, everyone would theoretically finish together.
“If you’re really good within your age division, you’re going to win,” said perennial favorite Kevin Nickodem, who spectated this year’s event. “I’ve been fortunate to have been relatively healthy, so for my age division, I race in the 80-85th percentile.”
Gould (21:50 adjusted) finished just ahead of Jim Clabuesch (22:26) of Chapel Hill and Jeff Hall (22:48) of Raleigh. Gould said he was looking over his shoulder and fully expected to see Clabuesch gaining on him.
“I started ahead of him, so I’m usually getting (passed) on this last lap,” Gould said. “Usually, he does pass me. But I’m very happy with my time. Normally, I usually try to be in the top 10, but I’m not used to being number one.”
Among the women, it was Durham’s Jessica Delgehausen (23:32) finishing ahead of Erin Jobe (23:46) and Janet Cromer (24:47).
I didn’t know where anybody was,” Delgehausen said, adding the cold didn’t faze her.
“Well, my face was cold at first, but after a while (I was fine),” she said. “I was wearing UnderArmour, and I should say I’m from Minnesota.”
The event marked the penultimate race in Godiva’s 2015-16 Winter Series.
The low-key, low-stakes cross-country runs that constitute the Winter Series also included the Run for the Donuts last October, the Misery Run in November, December’s Couch Mountain five-mile trail run, a New Year’s Day Run, and the Eno Equalizer team race in mid-January.
“I’d say the most popular is our New Year’s Day run,” Kirby said. “People like to go out on New Year’s, and it’s a nice race. Next up, we’ll have is Hard Climb Hill, and that’s on March 20.”
Race day-only registration costs $5 and opens an hour before races start. Competition should be heated at Hard Climb Hill, even if the race day temperatures are not.
Chris Gould, 71, finished with an adjusted time of 21:50, just ahead of Jim Clabuesch (22:26) of Chapel Hill and Jeff Hall (22:48) of Raleigh.