In this small coastal town of Coos Bay, Oregon, there’s always something going on. But, a single event that unifies this community occurs in mid-September. It’s “The PRE”. In early July, Downtown Health & Fitness starts their “10 Weeks to a 10K” boot camp during which previous years’ racers and newbies prepare for the big day. Soon, people are asking everyone, “Are you doing The Pre this year?”
That’s short for the Steve Prefontaine Memorial Run, an annual race that commemorates the life and gifts of Steve Prefontaine, international track star and Coos Bay’s favorite son.
This year marks the 33rd running of the 10K that takes participants over one of Pre’s favorite training courses. It’s a hilly route that begins in the heart of downtown, snakes out along Ocean Boulevard and over “Agony Hill” to the turn-around at the cemetery, over 3 miles out.We end passing by the Prefontaine family home and onto the Marshfield High School track, where we do that last quarter-mile to the finish line.
|What? Consecutive race numbers!|
In anticipation of the start, a carnival atmosphere infuses the nippy air. Some runners are costumed in wild leggings, others in tutus and weird hats. Most of us are moving around to stay warm in our light-weight clothing, chosen because we know that soon we’ll be hot sweaty. Some jog about the area, warming up or running out their “nerves.” Participants search out and meet friends, taking photos and reminiscing about past Pres. Onlookers and well-wishers mingle with runners.
Long-time, hometown friends Marilyn and Mary assert that they aren’t nervous nowadays; it’s not like in past times when they were “real runners.” Today, they just want to finish.
There’s our gun! And, we are off, a mass of humanity flowing west through downtown streets before the crowd spreads out, the real runners pulling away and the rest of us starting our first uphill climb.
|Laurie - her 32nd annual race|
Our friend Laurie has run in 32 of these races. Judy has walked and jogged it four times since 2005, and I’ve walked The Pre twice. This year, both Laurie and Judy took 3rd place in their respective age groups!
|Judy was so surprised!|
|Marilyn's almost there!|
For Marilyn and Mary, it is a panorama of familiar faces and old friends in both directions. Those whom they know are either running or walking in the race, too, or lining the streets, cheering and shouting encouragement. Amid the waves, smiles, and greetings, Marilyn says, “I love this! Seeing practically my whole life unfold before me in one day!”
|Official time 1:40.03|
~ xoA ~