Two years ago I was a spectator at a track meet in Portland called the Portland Track Festival. The meet is an intriguing mix of youth, open and master’s races with an emphasis on middle distance and distance races. There are a few feature races of the meet including Dave Clingan’s well respected master’s men’s mile. While I enjoyed the meet I came away with one overriding question. Why wasn’t there a featured race for master’s women?
I addressed that question to meet director Craig Rice a few months later and he replied that he’d love to see a high level race for master’s women. He just needed someone to champion it. He then looked straight at me in a meaningful manner. His message was clear. After a moment of contemplation, I replied, “ok Craig I’ll do it.”
I decided to have a 3000 meter race. It was long enough to interest distance runners but short enough that most milers could move up to it. I got my running Club Team Red Lizard to come in as a title sponsor. But who the heck was I going to get to run the thing?
I was actually in a little over my head. I had been a race director before, but I had never tried to attract a national caliber field. I had neither the experience nor the contacts that I needed to do the job. I put notices in master’s track and online but I knew I needed more than that. Fortunately, Dave Clingan gave me a very good piece of advice. He said get one runner and others will follow.
But who would that one runner be? My choice might not have seemed obvious for someone living in Oregon. I decided to go after a runner from Texas. I’m sure that Carmen Troncoso needs no introduction to readers of this website. I had seen her name in meet results in Oregon over a period of several years. It seemed like she came to the state almost every year. I hoped that I could talk her into coming to my race with the goal of building a race around her presence. And amazingly enough, she said yes. It turned out that she has friends in Oregon and could use the trip as an excuse to visit them.
With Carmen on board, I could go after other runners. I had met Christine Olen in Spokane at Club Nationals and she relished the idea of racing Carmen over 3000 meters. Trina Painter, Tania Fischer and Kirsten Leetch followed suit. I also managed to get some Northwest standouts to enter the race too. In the end I got a better field than I could have imagined possible.
Race night conditions were near perfect. The sky was overcast and temperatures hovered around 70 degrees. Winds were light and almost unnoticeable. A local runner or two complained that humidity was high by Portland standards but Carmen would have laughed at them.
At the gun, Tania took the lead and pushed the pace for the first 1600 meters. Trina, Carmen and Kirsten followed right behind while Christine stayed within striking distance. Carmen’s pace was ahead of American record pace for 50-54 women. Trina made her move just past 4 laps and by 2K she had open a gap on the rest of the field. Carmen held on as best she could while Tania and Kirsten fell back.
With 600 go Christine started her move. I have seen her closing speed before. Her kick is a thing of beauty to behold. She quickly moved from 5th to 3rd and then to 2nd and was gaining on Trina at the end. However, Trina had more than enough of a gap to win comfortably in 9:56. Christine finished strongly in 10:03 and Carmen’s 10:10 easily surpassed Kathy Martin’s AR.
Further back in the pack, Jeannie Groesz and Candy Puterbaugh both ran times that gave them age grades of more than 90. I also ran my highest age grade in years at 85. Only 2 women in the race age graded lower than I did and only 3 finished behind me. Afterwards almost all of the women agreed that it had been a magical night for racing.
Flash forward to 2010. Most of the women are eager to return and I’m now working on getting some new people to the race. Sabra Harvey would like to have the chance to pick up the 60-64 AR and I’m working on two or three other big names.
For those who might be interested here are the details. The Portland Track Festival will be held Friday night June 11th and all day Saturday June 12th. Friday night will feature some high level distance races for open women and men. Last year Rene Bativier-Baillie won the women’s 5000 and Sally Meyerhoff took the 10,000 meter race. Youth races will dominate the day section on Saturday. Saturday evening will feature middle distance races for youth, open and master’s runners. The 3000 for “old ladies” will be among the featured events on Saturday night.
The master’s women’s 3000 will feature a modest amount of prize money with $200, $100 and $50 going to the first three women across the line. There will also be $100 for the highest age graded performance.
For more information contact Joanna Harper at firstname.lastname@example.org.