Thursday Night Track
Since 1994, Thursday night has meant track night. Even accounting for vacations, workouts moved to an alternate day, and periods when I was away for podiatry school-related internships, I believe it’s a low estimate to say I’ve coached 600 Thursday night track workouts over the last seventeen plus years. The weather God has been quite kind, stopping all rain at 6:30 P.M. on Thursdays.
Beginning in January 2012, these coached track workouts will move to Tuesday nights. I believe there will be less Kezar Stadium facility-related conflicts and I myself have less work conflicts on Tuesday than Thursday. I also think the track workout on Tuesday fits in better for people racing or running long on the weekend. Rather than risk running too hard at the Thursday track workout and being flat for your race or long run the next weekend, attendees will be able to adjust the intensity they run at the Tuesday track workout based on how they are feeling from the previous weekend’s race or long run.
But change is hard (heck, I kept the price of the workouts at $4 from April 1994 until July 2011, before raising them one dollar to $5). I will miss measuring the nearness of the weekend by seeing my friends at the track on Thursday. I may have to cook dinner on Thursday nights now unless the Off the Grid trucks decide to make the switcheroo to Tuesday as well.
I first started coaching the Thursday night track workouts in 1994 at the request of the Dolphin South End (DSE) Runners. Members of the DSE, specifically people like Sandra Seiki and Ken Reed were looking for someone to coach track workouts to help them get faster. I agreed and created a training plan that would work for runners of varying abilities and varying race goals. Week one was distance intervals, week two was sprint intervals, week three was power workouts, and week four was a cut-back week. I still incorporate that basic outline today, but I now modify workouts to mesh with the Pamakid racing team schedule. Among the runners who were there at the very beginning are two people who still come to the track workouts today: Patrick Lee and Keith Johnson. We were all two age groups younger back in 1994! You can do the math yourself on Patrick and Keith, but I was twenty-three when I started coaching these workouts.
The first workout was April 21, 1994 at San Francisco State’s track at 6:30 P.M. The workout was 2 X 1200, 2 X 800, and 2 X 400. The cost was $4 per workout or $15 for four consecutive workouts. The price did not change for seventeen years, although I did change the credit policy, allowing people to roll their credit forward if they were absent. In October of 1994, when daylight savings time ended, we had to move from SF State (which had no lights) to Kezar Stadium and we’ve stayed there since. When the workouts moved to Kezar, John Spriggs started coming, making John number three in seniority out of the current attendees, behind only Patrick and Keith. In 2001, George Rehmet got the Pamakid Runners to subsidize the cost of track workouts for Pamakid members. In May 2002, Dave Parrish and David Hoatson started the K-Stars. Their Saturday runs and website brought many new runners to Thursday night track. Since 2003 the results of the workouts have been posted online thanks to the work of Dave Parrish, Tomas Palermo, and Heather Johnson. On June 30, 2011, the last day before the price increase, an estimated 655 track workouts were pre-purchased at the old price – runners know a bargain when they see one!
We have several special track workout traditions such as Christmas Relays and the one mile time trial. There is also a tradition of going out to eat to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, big races, and anything else we can come up with to use as an excuse to go eat together. The all-time record for attendees is 37 for the Christmas Relays workout on December 16, 2010, which was also my fortieth birthday. The record for a “normal” workout is 30, on January 27, 2011. If you know me, you know I am a creature of habit. We had the same stretching routine that ended with four striders until 2008 when I changed with the times and moved from static stretching to dynamic stretching – though it still ends with four striders.
There have been times in the dead and dark of winter that we were the only ones on the track. We’ve seen a lot of other groups come and go. The track has been particularly crowded with the rise in popularity of charity running, especially Team in Training. We’ve shared the track with PacWest and MacCanDo on Thursday nights and now we will share the track with the Impalas, West Valley, and Excelsior on Tuesdays. Melvina Hill policed Kezar Stadium in the evening for the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department for years. With her booming voice Melvina kept order at the track, but her position was eliminated in 2009 and now we’re out there on our own with the Frisbee players, soccer players, and people walking in lane one. We’ve been joined by some top notch runners like Shannon Rowbury (a future Olympian) and Tyler Small (in 2010 before he ran 2:34 and came in fifth at the San Francisco Marathon). On July 6, 2000, a woman named Malinda Walker attended her first track workout. The rest of that story, shall we say, is history! We aren’t the only couple that first laid eyes on each other at one of these track workouts. There are several others, including Nathan Wong and Leah Evans, who now live in Boston, are married and are the proud parents of twins.
It is with a heavy heart that I bid adieu to the Thursday night track workouts. But I excitedly look forward to the new tradition of Tuesday night track workouts. I just hope the weather God gets this memo…you can now rain on Thursdays at 6:30 P.M. but I would greatly appreciate it if you can create a no-rain zone for Kezar Stadium for Tuesdays at 6:30 P.M. moving forward. Amen!