At the first race I ever ran, way back in 1996 at Wickham Park, when you finished the race you were given a popsicle stick with your place on it that you would then turn into someone who would then match your name with the time recorded, by hand, for that place. As far as I know, at that point in racing there were no distinctions made between gun time, chip time, net time, etc., you just got your time and that was it. Sure you could tell yourself that you started your watch when you hit the starting line, so that time was your “real” one, but the one that went down in the books was based on when the race started, not when you started. Before “cotton” became a dirty word, that was what you got for a race t-shirt and no one griped that their race entry didn’t include a “tech t,” because no one knew what the heck a “tech t” was. One last defining characteristic of this old school brand of road racing was that odds were you knew, and had a chance to converse with, at least a large handful of other racers as the racing community was, compared to today’s large races, fairly insular and close-knit. All this is by way of introduction to the perfect old-school, vintage, they-don’t-make-’em-like-they-used-to-except-they-did-this-time, race: the Level Renner 10K.
Ever so briefly, Level Renner is a primarily online journal of New England running put out by Kevin Balance and Eric Narcisi. Level Renner profiles regional racers, offers race recaps, and lots of other great content geared towards runners that demand more from their running publications than Runner’s World cares to offer. Oh, and it’s free. On Sunday, Level Renner put on its first annual Level Renner Road Race 10K at DW Field Park in Brokton, MA, billing it as a return to old school racing, and they delivered on the promise. The first perk of a small race in a park closed to traffic is ease of parking, the value of which is not to be underestimated. We were able to park literally right where packet pick-up, and the race finish was, which took away a typical source of race-morning stress.
A grassy stretch housed the packet pick-up and sponsor tents, including Janji, Greater Boston Running Company, and Karhu/Craft, featuring friend Jordan Kinley, who also took part in the race. The race t-shirt, old school cotton, was designed by photographer Scott Mason, and is pretty darn spiffy. I happen to like cotton t-shirts because I can just wear them as everyday clothes. I’m very particular about the shirts I run in, and most race t-shirts just don’t fit well enough for me to use. Here’s the awesome shirt:
Now, on to the race itself. The course was composed of a series of loops that somehow managed to include something called Tower Hill 3 times, the first of which was 100 yards into the race, the last time leading up to the finish line. Was it the hardest hill I’ve ever encountered in a race? Nah, but it was a gut-checking hill all the same when you’ve just started running and when trying to finish on fumes. You won’t hear me complaining though, lest I jeopardize my place in the Level Legion, which is not meant for whiners. See, I even smiled going up the hill the first time.
A map of the course can better describe how it went than I could try to:
Of particular old-school coolness were the mile markers.
The course itself was beautiful, all tree-lined bike paths in good shape with various bodies of water to run around. If there was one thing that bothered me ever so slightly, it was that the path itself often seemed to be sloping, sometimes making it hard to find level ground to run on. But that is a small issue and one that just involved shifting my path a little to find the right stretch for me. I’m sure many didn’t even notice. Other than Tower Hill, the course was fairly flat, with some nice downhill stretches to even out the uphill. I would describe this as a fair race, with something to fit everyone’s strengths, uphill, downhill, turns, etc. As you can see though, the final uphill, when I think this picture was taken, broke me completely, I look like I’m getting ready to take a swing at someone.
I finished with a time of 47:41, which I will absolutely taken given that I ran 10 miles the day before and am not feeling supremely confident in my fitness. I was a major fan of this race, which brought the “race” back to “road race.” It was a great event put on by Eric and Kevin and I can’t wait to see what the 2nd Annual LRRR brings. You can bet that, as always, I ran happy.