Surf’s up … and lots of thoughts on races

After much gnashing of teeth, and trying to find the perfect next marathon, the verdict is in: Surf City USA Marathon in Huntington Beach, Calif., next February is officially a stop on my personal experiment of one.

Oceanside, flat, terrific race atmosphere, high marks from previous runners, every thing about this race makes sense. Even the timing is right, giving me enough time for some recovery from the Chicago Marathon and plenty of training time in hopes of allowing for improvement. Plus, why not leave Fargo in the winter for a long weekend in the sun?

For a while, it looked like I might end up back in Arizona for the Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon, a terrific race in its own right and one of my absolute favorite places. But already committed to running the Ragnar Relay to the Florida Keys in early January, the timing just wasn’t right. Plus, as a runner, I want to try running in new places when I can, so it makes sense to mix it up. Just a month ago, I was toying with some different ideas, including going on a marathon whirlwind of sorts this spring, perhaps doing 4 races in 6 weeks. Now, with a winter marathon planned, I am looking at leaving that adventure for another summer, but aiming to run the marathons in Fargo and Grandma’s in 2011 before jetting off for a fall race.

One of the advantages of Surf City, other than an ideal location along the California coastline, is being able to again meet up with some friends who are running it. After my experience in Chicago, it’s really too much fun to pass up the chance to run and share the experience with friends.

Which is another reason I’m still excited for some shorter races left yet this fall. It’s just 10 days to the Red River Run in Fargo’s Oak Grove Park. Eleven days after that, the Full Moon 5K, starting at West Fargo’s Cheney Middle School, will be another can’t miss event for area runners. A word to the wise: those hoping to run the Full Moon 5K might want to sign up early, as the race was packed last year and there’s a 500-runner cap this year. It’s one of the few mid-week, evening races in the area, and the turnout last year was unbelievable.

The great thing about fall running, even after the bigger races in Detroit Lakes, the Twin Cities and Fargo, is that the area still offers other running events. Besides this past weekend’s Filthy 5K and the ones noted above, there’s the Turkey Trot on Nov. 20 and the annual Jingle Bell run in December. For those looking for results from Saturday’s Filthy 5K, word is the results will be posted soon. Click this link, which will soon offer results.

And for those looking for at running for a cause, there’s a heartwarming race, Strides for NICUs, in Perham, Minn., also on Oct. 30. There was a short write-up in The Forum this past weekend, and you can click here to find out more about Ella’s story.

If you want even more to think about, then there are a few stories worth passing along, especially since it will be a much-talked about topic in running circles for at least the next year. After the Boston Marathon sold out in 8 hours on Monday, Runner’s World posted a story with comments from race’s executive director, who said he’s considering “re-configuring the qualification and entry process for the 2012 marathon.” This comes after Amby Burfoot questioned whether the qualifying standards are fair in an extensive article back in 2009. And, in case you missed it, the Wall Street Journal published a story last week about whether women have an unfair advantage when it comes to qualifying.

The Boston Marathon is about tradition and its legendary qualifying standards have created even more demand for gaining entry into the race. But, while the Boston race may have been slow to change in the past, particularly with allowing women to run, it is one of the world’s five major marathons. And it has evolved significantly over the past few decades. While Boston officials might wrestle with changing the qualifying standards and entry process for 2012, who knows where they will end up. But I am certain we’ll see changes for 2012 – and not everyone is going to be happy with it. But they can’t make it more difficult for women unless they want to take a huge public relations hit and alienate the gender that makes the majority of spending decisions for families in this country. And would they lower times for older runners, who generally have more money to spend? My money is a revamped entry process, most likely a lottery system. And maybe they’ll just lower the qualifying times for everyone. With more people running marathons now than ever, about 467,000 finishers in the U.S. in 2009, that will give more incentive for many of those runners to pick up the pace.

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