250 Relay and 10-Mile Run
YORK COUNTY 250 MILE RELAY:
WHY--To celebrate 250 years of York
BY CLAY SHAW
YORK COUNTY, PA--I told one reporter that I had been to Moscow twice, Antarctica, and Istanbul, but never to Fawn Grove, York County. Now I can say that I have been to every borough and township in York County. The 250 Relay coincided with a major celebration which dominated the York County news: the long-awaited opening of the York County Heritage Rail Trail, and the debut of the point-to-point York 10-Mile Run that ran on the new trail from Seven Valleys to York City. The new trail is great; flat with a gently crushed stone surface, with many sights including the Howard Tunnel. A special thank you to Tim Fulton of York for his dreams and hard work in making the trail a reality.
Back to the relay. It would be run in 50 stages with one or two runners in most stages, and as many as seven in some of the latter stages on Sunday. The stages were numbered and named, usually for the largest community that it ran through, and were about five-miles long. The event was noncompetitive, and runners were asked to maintain about a 9-10 minute per mile pace. A schedule was made and maintained throughout the weekend.
The two most important aspects of the relay were the runners' safety and that everyone have a good time. Jill Whorl of Jack Whorl Chevrolet was kind enough to donate the use of two vehicles for the weekend. A Chevy Blazer was the "pace vehicle." This was the vehicle that Larry Anderson and his staff of drivers drove behind the runners at all times to assure the runners' safety. The runners were presented with orange vests with a 250-logo patch. They wore and kept the vests as their premium. The vests and the pace vehicle were essential in the night stages.
The second vehicle was the "host vehicle," manned by Scott Madison and me through both nights, with help from Karen Mitchell, Penny Hornock, Missi Rosenkilde, and Patti Stirk. The host vehicle would occasionally bring runners back to the vehicles, meet and greet the upcoming runners, and give them their vests and tell them the rules--"Be safe and have fun." Some boroughs and townships took advantage of a free offer to have a photo taken with the relay. Many mayors and township officials became involved. Many towns along the way had crowds to greet the participants: Brogue, Airville, Shrewsbury, York New Salem, Jefferson, Wellsville, Franklintown, Dillsburg, Lewisberry, East Prospect, Yorkana, Dallastown, and Jacobus.
The event started with a ceremonial torch lighting in downtown York at Lafayette Plaza. Barcelona Olympic marathoner Steve Spence was on hand to be the first runner. He received the torch from York Road Runners Club president Jeff Hines, the co-organizer of the event.
A few of us, including Steve and Jeff, stopped for a beer before the actual relay start in Brogue, PA. A large crowd was on hand in Brogue, along with TV stations, to document the start. Steve took off into the night with Jeff Hines and, for a time, Jim Lebo (who would run Stage 2) and Richard Stotlar (who would run Stage 3). A crowd and photo shoot in Airville at the first stage change, then things got very quiet--a few cars, and some dogs barking as we headed to the far southeastern reaches of the county. After Richard Stotlar ran through the borough of Delta, Stage 4, Peach Bottom, started right on the Pennsylvania/Maryland border.
Chip and Doris Bixler ran Stage 4. They had a small off-the-course adventure, and then a pack of dogs chased Chip into the Blazer, with one bad dog jumping against the vehicle. After a quick getaway from the dogs, Chip ran the rest of the stage without incident. John Hilbert ran Stage 7, Stewartstown. He was "flying" through this stage at a 6:30 pace to help out the next stage runner. Oscar Fox, a 76-year-old marathon runner who has run a marathon in every continent, was running the next stage, #8 Felton, one of the hilliest, toughest stages, and Oscar wanted a little time cushion, which Hilbert provided. A dawn photo shoot at the Shrewsbury/New Freedom exchange zone included the mayor of Shrewsbury. The New Freedom runners would enter the rail trail at New Freedom and head north. A scheduled photo shoot at the junction of Pleasant Valley Road and the rail trail was not exactly easy. I had to climb up a 20-foot embankment to reach the group. I opted to run to the nearest crossroads rather than go down the same way.
Seven Valleys was the site of the start of the York 10-Mile Run, which Scott and I would run, despite being up all night. Lots of excitement and a big crowd had gathered. Two runners, Glenn Engler and Tom Spangler, would run both events at the same time, finishing with torch in hand 1½ hours later. As tired as I was, I wanted to run under 70 minutes, which I did by 12 seconds. A quick shower at Penny Hornock's studio and off to the relay again. The relay now was headed southwest toward Hanover.
Karen Mitchell and her son Josh George ran together in Stage 35, Goldsboro, bringing the torch from the river in Goldsboro to Newberrytown. Donna McLain Vitacco, former Eastern High School and University of Tennessee star, ran with Scott Madison, Christian Potier, and three of Donna's cross-country teammates from York Haven via Brunner's Island and Mt. Wolf to Manchester.
After being up for two straight nights, I ran Stage 39, Raintree, with Penny and Missi at 4:45 a.m. During the next stage the course crossed US 30 through North York and returned to the center of York City, Continental Square. The course headed through York City at the crack of dawn. Flying Feet stars Dianna Golden and Heather Parsons ran with Joe Heidler through the city toward the eastern end of the county. The course went through Hellam, Wrightsville, and headed south and then up some major hills to East Prospect.
East Prospect, followed by Yorkana, had large Sunday-morning crowds to greet the runners. The stages on Sunday morning were quite hilly as they toured Yorkana, Windsor, Red Lion, Yoe, Dallastown, Loganville, and Jacobus before returning to York for the finale. The Dallastown fire police closed Rt. 74 for runners Bobbi and Mike Kehr. Dressed in their brown and yellow uniforms, they added color to the relay.
Eric Menzer and Tom Warman ran the final stage, with Loretta Claiborne, Bob Hollis, Missi, Penny, Jeff, and me, running to the square from the Colonial Shopping Center up South George Street. Loretta Claiborne is a multi-honored Special Olympian who grew up in what Loretta calls "the projects" on College Avenue. In her running prime, Loretta won the women's division of the White Rose Run in 1977 and qualified for and ran the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:05. Currently, Disney is producing a TV movie about her life.
After reaching the Square and hanging out there for a few photos and brief chats, Loretta led the group of runners with torch in hand, toward the Fairgrounds. Crowds of parade watchers gathered along both sides of the streets and shouted encouragement and Loretta's name.
The York 250-Mile Relay was a smashing success. We think the York 10-Mile Run and the 250 Relay were the most successful events of the York 250 Weekend.
Looking back, my experience in running the non-competitive, but grueling, Suomi Juoksee in Finland in 1992 (see Runner's Gazette, August 1992), a five-day 100 stage run from Lapland to Helsinki, was key in planning for this event. Jeff Hines had relay experience with the two-day (Mt.) Hood to (Pacific) Coast Relay in Oregon. Combined brainstorming and the help provided by the course planners, pace car drivers, and host car personnel, were key to the success. Everyone had fun and stayed safe.
Walkie/talkies were in both vehicles to provide communications, as the cell phones were often useless in some of the hinterlands of the county. Best quote of the relay, heard over the walkie/talkie (from Patti Stirk): "They're setting a blistering 13-minute per mile pace downhill!"
Planning a celebration in your county? This sure was a great way to combine running, history, the media, communities, family, and friends into a very positive event.
1. Greg Cauller 54:03
1. Sandy Reedy 1:02:09