- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 28, 2007

The running boom took hold in the late 1970s, buoyed by Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter. The sport made more strides in the 1980s as race organizers began offering food after races.

Bake it and they will run.

The Pike’s Peek 10K, which makes its 12th running tomorrow in Rockville, owes its start to the post-race food provided by Clyde’s and the now-defunct Fritzbe’s. The Fritzbe’s 10K, which was sponsored by parent company Great American Restaurants and organized by the Montgomery County Road Runners Club, began in 1983 and was successful. It also had a sister race at Fritzbe’s in Reston.

The Rockville race began and ended in the restaurant’s parking lot and took runners on a tour of the city, including a mile on Rockville Pike. At one time, it was Maryland’s largest race.

But in 1991, the manager from Fritzbe’s in Rockville who spearheaded the restaurant’s involvement in the 10K had moved on.

“They lost a highly skilled manager named Jay,” said Lyman Jordan, a long-time MCRRC official and the visionary behind Pike’s Peek. “He was like a field marshal. He could whip up this brunch like nobody could do. So Fritzbe’s tried it for two more years and they really struggled, and it wasn’t really up to their quality standards.

“They went negative for $40,000 to $50,000 because they wanted to be the sole sponsor. Then they said ‘We cannot do this race anymore.’ I was driving down Rockville Pike one day [in 1994] and I passed the Shady Grove Metro and I thought how far is it to the White Flint station. So I punched my odometer and measured it to White Flint and it came out to about 10K.”

Jordan said he met with officials at White Flint Mall and told them he would do all the work to produce a 10-kilometer race. All they needed to do was provide him the mall’s parking lot to stage the finish area and accompanying brunch. But MCRRC already was organizing the White Flint 8K.

“They thought about it for about 30 seconds and said ‘Sure!’ ” said Jordan, who then went back to the club to find volunteers to help him put on the race.

Jordan recruited club veterans John Sissala, Phil Quinn and Irv Newman to help. It took two years to put it together, with many meetings with officials at the Maryland State Highway Administration, Montgomery County and the City of Rockville among others.

The first Pike’s Peek 10K hit the roads in spring 1996. By the second year, about 2,500 runners participated, nearly double the debut year.

“Lyman was really the one to get the county on board,” said Sissala, former Pike’s Peek race director. “He’s really the father of this race. It was his vision.”

Sissala, who has directed many races for MCRRC, including Fritzbe’s, said the biggest challenge at Pike’s Peek is keeping the vehicular traffic moving so no one is hit.

The race is not cheap to produce, either. Jordan estimates that they “spend $45 to $50 a runner, with the entry fee about half of that.”

The race course is fast, with a net drop in elevation. And to attract fast runners, the race once offered a $20,000 time bonus, which was won in 1998 by two-time Olympian Jen Rhines (32:45) and in 1999 by two-time Olympian Dan Browne (29:15). Both times stand as course records.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide