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Band gives runners a jazzy boost

Pear Blossom runners aren't just revved about the 10-mile race ' they're jazzed. Dixieland jazzed, that is.

For the 26th year in a row, runners got a live musical performance at the bottom of Hanley Hill, at about the 3- and 7-mile points, and many seem to appreciate the boost.

They are firing me up, said Bob Dickey of Medford, coming down the home stretch on his last three miles.

Other runners yelled, clapped and even danced to the tempo of Alexander's Ragtime Band or When the Saints go Marching In during Saturday's event.

— It all began after the first race 27 years ago, when a runner asked Randy Hugdahl to volunteer some Dixieland music because other races had things like that to help break up the monotony and inspire runners.

And Hugdahl, now 80, has done it every year since.

He said musicians have come and gone, and this year's players were from the Easy Valley Eight, minus their pianist and vocalist.

For a race famous for its rain, snow, sleet and cold weather, it can be a challenge to play.

It's been so cold that the valves froze, said Dick Cottle, 76, who plays trumpet, adding that he's had to warm up his instrument by holding it under his armpit.

The only people crazier than us are those people running out here without any clothes on, he said.

Hugdahl said the payoff for volunteering their skill and sacrificing warmth is seeing the reaction of the runners as they pass.

They give you the thumbs-up all the time, he said.

Lyle Ames, guitarist, 72, moaned when he learned In the Mood was on the song list.

There's a society for people who refuse to play 'In the Mood,' he said.

For musicians, it's too repetitious, explained Hugdahl, adding that it's always the one that fills the dance floor, however.

Even if they didn't wave, many runners smiled.

I think runners really like it, said Bob Wilcox, who volunteers to hand out water every year.

He said the first several runners don't seem to acknowledge the music, but that changes as the race goes on.

The first ones are serious. The ones that are usually on the end are the ones having the most fun, he said, adding that they'll start waving and dancing.

It's a nice change of pace, no pun intended, one woman called as she ran by.

At the end of the line of runners, there were fewer stern-faced spitters and more dancers and clappers, and a runner even stopped to pet a horse leaning over a fence.

Hugdahl noted it was a more enthusiastic, responsive pack this year.

And that's what makes it all worth it, he said.