A damp, deep fog bathed the hills of San Bruno Mountain Park as the SPARTAN six-pack (Brian, Nick, Don, Kurt, Sal, Art) gathered for the 5k Excelsior Challenge. To accommodate visitors to the small parking lot, runners were asked to park along the street of a side entrance, requiring a one-mile walk on a paved path through a dripping canopy of towering Eucalyptus tress that scented the air with a mild, lung-clearing mist.
Because of geography and conflicting commitments, there was no carpool; each SPARTAN arrived separately––striding slowly across the gopher-holed, cobblestone field like Gary Cooper in “Twelve O’Clock High”–– to our nesting spot beneath a small oak tree. Brian and Don went out to jog the unfamiliar course, Nick, Art and Sal began their individual warm-up routines, and Kurt went off to pee.
The fog had lifted slightly, but the sun could not break through when gunshot started the 9:45am Masters race. The Masters field seemed to be down at least 20 percent from other races, and the overall turnout seemed down even more than that. Perhaps it was just the fog, but there was a pleasing, subdued energy on the small clearing that served as both the start and finish of the race. But all that changed when the gun went off.
The course is unique on the XC circuit; I would liken it most to Crystal Springs, but it’s a beast of its own. The course has 300 feet of elevation gain, but it’s not just up-and-down: it’s up-and-down and up-and-down and up-and-down and up-and-down. It just keeps rolling and rolling along. As I began to rise above the fog, I thought, “It’s gotta go down sometime!?” And it did. The descent, however, is long and gradual; and just to remind you who’s boss, there is a little hill at the end to slap the sass out of that great kick you were about to let fly. When I finished, I would have bet my Adidas I ran up 3-times more than I ran down. It’s that kind of course. But I liked it; it is true cross country, and it will test you. And not only did the SPARTAN six-pack pass the test, because it was a virgin run for each of them, they all set PRs! (reported by Kurt Gravenhorst)
48th Brain Conroy: 23:57 49th Don Donoghue: 24:06 63th Nick Butterfield: 26:37
71st Art Sanchez: 27:47 77th Kurt Gravenhorst 30:02 80th: Sal Martinez: 31:54