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  • RUNNING

    Palmer, Gage head Pear Blossom

    Palmer aims for first victory; Gage is going after her fourth straight triumph on Saturday
  • Having the most recent men's winners in the field for this weekend's 38th annual Pear Blossom Run would be good, surmised Trevor Palmer.
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    • PEAR BLOSSOM RUN
      WHEN, WHERE: Saturday, in front of Medford City Hall. Ten-mile race starts at 8:20 a.m.
      • ROUTE: From Oakdale Avenue, out Jacksonville Highway, right turn on Hanley Road, then turn around ...
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      PEAR BLOSSOM RUN
      WHEN, WHERE: Saturday, in front of Medford City Hall. Ten-mile race starts at 8:20 a.m.

      • ROUTE: From Oakdale Avenue, out Jacksonville Highway, right turn on Hanley Road, then turn around at Ross Lane and follow same route back.
      • WEBSITE: www.pearblossomrun.com
  • Having the most recent men's winners in the field for this weekend's 38th annual Pear Blossom Run would be good, surmised Trevor Palmer.
    However, having those people, Max King and David Laney, wouldn't necessarily be good for Palmer, said Palmer.
    Neither King, the all-time victory leader with seven, nor last year's winner Laney, will compete in Saturday's 10-mile race that begins and ends in downtown Medford.
    Is that opportunity knocking at Palmer's door?
    "I'd go in with a different strategy if both of them were running it," said Palmer, a former Crater High and Southern Oregon University standout who is the top returning male finisher. "They have such a long history in the race, I don't know that it's good they won't be there. If I'm being honest, and being opportunistic, it definitely could work out for me."
    King and Laney each are running the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile on Saturday.
    King won the Pear in 2011 and '12. With him in the Sonoma last year, Laney captured the Pear in his debut, one place ahead of Palmer.
    On the women's side, Marci Klimek Gage, who starred at Phoenix High and Linfield College, will be gunning for her fourth straight title.
    Gage, who lives in Bend, last year became only the second woman to win three straight. Deanna Schiedler-O'Neil is the all-time leader, with six of her record nine overall victories coming in succession.
    Gage's three wins (in as many tries) ties her for second overall with Rosa Gutierrez.
    Online registration for the 10-miler and other, shorter races ended on Wednesday, but sign-ups will continue to be taken today during packet-pickup hours at the Rogue Valley Family YMCA, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
    The races begin at Eighth and Oakdale streets in front of City Hall.
    The first is the popular 5-kilometer at 7 a.m.
    The 10-miler begins at 8:20 a.m. and follows Jacksonville Highway to Hanley Road, where a turnaround point sends the runners back.
    There are also a 10-mile wheelchair race and 1- and 2-mile Mayor's Cup runs.
    Through Wednesday, there were 1,175 runners signed up for the 10-miler. Last year, 1,263 finished the race.
    For the 5K, there are 1,663 entrants. The final tally last year was 1,873 finishers.
    Race co-director Steve Buxton expects last-minute entrants to show up today.
    "I suspect some people are going to look at the weather forecast and say, 'This looks too good to pass up' and jump in," he said.
    Unlike last year, when chilly temperatures and a 7 mph breeze accompanied — or worked against — runners, ideal weather is expected Saturday. Temperatures should be in the neighborhood of 50 degrees with virtually no wind during the 10-mile event.
    There will be a couple noticeable changes this year.
    Ten-foot poles with bright red flags on them will serve as mile markers for the big race, providing better visibility for runners wanting to know where they are.
    Also, the route of the 5K changed slightly at the start because Fir Street is closed due to construction.
    The turns are a bit tighter, said Buxton, meaning the early rush could leave people "elbow to elbow through the area. It could be fun and really competitive."
    Competitive is what Palmer hopes to be in his third appearance in the race.
    He decided only this week to enter because he wasn't sure he'd be suitably fit. Palmer has been nursing an Achilles' tendon injury — similar to one he dealt with prior to last year's race — and needed to be prodded by co-worker and fellow runner Jon Leuthold to give it a try.
    Palmer had been running regularly but hadn't gone through any hard workouts. He went on a run Monday to take stock of his shape and was pleased enough that he registered afterward.
    "I didn't think I'd be doing it," said Palmer. "A race like that, you want to be at the top of your game and be very fit."
    He compares his condition to that of last year, when his runner-up showing and time surprised him. The time of 52 minutes, 55 seconds, trailed Laney's by 37 seconds.
    In his only other Pear attempt, Palmer placed third in 2009 in 52:16.
    Palmer drives for UPS and gets in his running before and after shifts. He wakes up at midnight and goes to a local gym to do about 6 miles on a treadmill.
    "There's some surprisingly good TV on at that time," he laughed.
    After work, he gets in another run of about the same distance.
    Palmer had a good summer of racing last year and placed third in The Rogue Run half marathon before his injury flared up. In the Pear, he'd like to run close to what he did a year ago.
    "I don't think I'm gonna be real slow," he said. "I would expect to be under 55, hopefully under 54."
    Whatever it is, he hopes it's good enough for victory.
    "That would be nice," he said. "That would be very nice. Based off of who I see (entered), I would hope I could do that. But you never know who will show up."
    Palmer is the only one of last year's top five who is entered this year.
    The women's side should have a decidedly different look up front as well. Gage and Sera Mathewes of Gold Hill, who was fourth last year, are the only returners from the top five.
    Gage's winning time a year ago in less-than-ideal conditions was 58:03. She has improved by more than a minute each time she's run the Pear, and if she does so again will break the women's record of 57:07 set by Schiedler-O'Neil in 1995. She said after last year's race that the record is one of her goals.
    Gage, too, was on the mend recently. She competed in the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis, Minn., in early October, placing 11th out of nearly 4,000 female runners.
    According to a blog she writes, she was unhappy that she didn't finish well. After a recovery period, she then fell during a run on an icy road and injured a knee.
    She got back to racing with a 10K in February, followed by the New York City Half Marathon in mid-March, in which she was the 19th female finisher and the ninth American. Her time was 1:16:48.
    Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email ttrower@mailtribune.com
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