Area road runners are anxiously awaiting the beginning of the 2011 season. There are always a few random races in January for the weather-resistant crowd, but for most southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas runners, the official racing year begins with the classic Polar Bear Races at Bolivar in early February.
The Polar Bear Races have been a tradition for area runners for many years, and include a 10K, 5K and mile fun run. But even Polar Bears have weather limitations. Johanna Wood, of the Bolivar YMCA, announced Thursday that this year's races have been rescheduled for Feb. 26 due to the lingering effects of last week's blizzard.
That will leave runners with a choice to make.
The Run With The Wind is also scheduled for Feb. 26. The RWTH is a USATF-recognized 25K race from Sarcoxie to Carthage or Carthage to Sarcoxie, depending on the wind direction on race day. The point-to-point course runs from Sarcoxie High School to the Carthage YMCA and is one of the few sanctioned 25K races in the state. For more information, see the race calendar at joplinroadrunners.com.
The St. Patrick's Day run of choice this year is the My Sham Rox 15K on March 12 in Springfield. There are too few opportunities to race at distances other than 5K and 10K, so this new addition to the racing calendar has area runners excited. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call The Starting Block store at 417-890-7200.
Arkansas has two major marathons in the spring: the Little Rock Marathon on March 6 and the grueling Hogeye Marathon in Fayetteville on April 6. The Little Rock course winds through the state capital and has a growing fan base.
The Hogeye, which began as a local out-and-back race from Fayetteville to the tiny burg of Hogeye, has changed courses over the years and now includes a loop around Lake Fayetteville along with those monster hills. Check out arkansasrunner.com for details on those events.
Then on April 30, the Frisco Railroad Run at Willard offers choices of 50 mile, 50K, 50K relay, marathon or a 10 mile race, all held on the historic Frisco Highline Trail. All races begin at Willard Middle School near the trail. Billed as a "PR course" due to the lack of hills, the trail features a crushed gravel surface and is very runner friendly. For more information, contact Richard Johnson at 836-6685 or RichardJohnson@MissouriState.edu.
One of the state's most famous races, the Hannibal Cannibal, is scheduled for July 2. Both 5K and 10K runners challenge the infamous hill up to Lover's Leap, which overlooks the Mississippi at the south edge of town. Over 1,700 runners toed the starting line in Hannibal in 2010.
Besides the marquee events, there are a number of local races scheduled for the area. On most every weekend throughout the year, some community or entity sponsors races ranging from 5K to the 26.2-mile marathon distance and beyond. Most events are divided by gender into standard age groups.
Sometimes you beat the course, and sometimes the course beats you. Some days you set a personal best, and on others you are glad to just limp across the finish line. The runners themselves will tell you that the attraction is not winning or the awards, but rather the camaraderie of sharing the experience with others.
Looking for a race? Drop me an email at email@example.com. Be sure and include "road race" or something similar in the subject line so you don't get thrown out with the spam.