State Street Mile
Running is fun. Running a beautiful route makes it that much better. Add a running buddy, a dog, cheering spectators, and a bannered finish line, and you have a recipe for foot-falling bliss. The State Street Mile staged on June 3 had all that – times a thousand.
The grass roots race that started in 1983 has blossomed into a premier event attracting hundreds of locals, and yes, their canine companions. Dog-friendly, family-oriented, and geared toward runners of all ages and athletic abilities, the State Street Mile warrants an ovation. Categorized by Dog, Family, Elite, Masters, and Amputee divisions, everyone was welcome, and after going the distance personally, I can attest the dash from Pedregosa to De La Guerra is a community competition that embodies the best of our fair city.
Revamped as a fundraiser in 2000 by the Victim Witness Assistance Program, a department of the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s office, all proceeds go to benefit the Crime Victim Emergency Fund. Providing such necessities as food, clothing, and emergency lodging expenses, the result of the entrance fees rival the time results of the runners by a mile. All wordplay intended, it’s this underlying cause that contributes to the positive energy program director Megan Rheinschild finds so inspiring. “One of my favorite parts about it is just how much fun the families and children have running down State Street together – all closed off as it is,” or perhaps it’s her own participation. “I’m a runner myself, and I run the Family Fun Mile with my husband, Eric, and our two teenage boys.”
It’s the class in which I also ran, courtesy of the uptown YMCA. Part of a group of Y staff, the nonprofit is a big presence at the popular event – giving out free totes at the finish line, and running with the best of ’em. YMCA kickboxing instructor Rebekah Tang was happy to tell me what brought her out that morning: “I’m prepping for a 5K, but I just want to enjoy myself today. Seeing so many people I know is great” – a sentiment echoed by many of those I asked. Triathlete Carl Parker, who marked this year as a third-time entrant, said: “It’s fun. Everyone comes out to support each other. Young runners, old runners… you can’t really beat it in the middle of SB.”
And it might be a stretch, but I think 9-year old Twinkle, a mixed breed ready to run her first race with owner Michael LeBold, was barking up the same tree, too. “I’ve heard so many great things about the event.” Michael told me when we spoke pre-race. “Twinkle and I are going to pace ourselves. This will be the farthest she’s ever gone at a clip.”
A truth unique to the pair, as I journeyed from my parking space close to De La Guerra to the start line, I saw more than a few runners streak by in their heat – then jog leisurely back to Pedregosa to take part in another division. Jake Ballantine was one such athlete – placing 2nd in his age class and 1st in the Family Fun Run – he modestly admitted: “I’m going to run the Dog Mile with my friend and his pooch next.”
Not as gung-ho, I was nevertheless motivated to go all out when the gun fired my group into motion – if only for the one pass. I don’t know about you, but once I fasten a bib to my shirt, I want to run as well and as fast as I’m able, whether it’s a mile or a marathon. The blocks flew by as I ran, the encouragement from onlookers music to the ears, and the experience of running smack in the middle of our busiest thoroughfare a novelty to relish. I had just established my pace, really, when I found myself flying through the archway erected at the finish line. A drum section underscored the achievement, and after grabbing a provided cold beverage, I glowed with post-race endorphins, ready to do some cheering of my own.
What wasn’t to love about watching a fully cassocked priest cross the finish line? The reverend Larry Gosselin – who spontaneously joined the runners after delivering mass at the Mission – received many a hurrah. His statement that “Running is receiving the breath of the spirit” was testimony to his days as a one-time avid runner, while witnessing Andre Barbieri set a personal best was equally heartwarming. Sporting an above-the-knee prosthetic on his left leg, the four-time race veteran credited the “Cheetah Bladerunner” with his improved stride. “I ran it in just under 6 minutes,” he enthused, ebullient as he added: “It’s the easiest race of the year. It’s all downhill!”
Bumping into well-known elite runner Curly Guillen was just icing on the cake. In the midst of preparing for the 2020 Olympic trials, the nationally acclaimed athlete had his two tots in tow for the Family division of the event. “I’m not running the elite mile today,” he said laughingly, beaming the way proud fathers do. “I am definitely watching them, though!”
Yes, much fun was had by all – adults, children, and spectators alike. I know I’ll be running in next year’s State Street Mile. Won’t you lace up and join us?