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Pear Blossom Run back in full force

After two years of virtual racing, Pear Blossom Run returns to in-person activity

After two years of virtual racing, the Pear Blossom Run is all set to be back on the streets of Medford this Saturday morning.

You think those in charge are happy about that?

You bet they are.

“The whole community is excited about it,” said race director Chuck Whiteley. “We’ve heard from so many people that they’re looking forward to getting out there again. It’s just a lot of excitement about the event. There’s a lot of camaraderie about the race throughout the community.”

Whiteley, who has been one of the lead organizers of the event since 2019, said that there was a wide range of emotions once they knew for sure an in-person race was happening this year.

“It was really everything in between, mainly because we hadn’t put the race on for three years,” he said. “We were relieved we got to put the race on this year. We were excited about getting to do it.”

Saturday’s schedule gets underway with the 5-kilometer race at 7 a.m. The marquee 10-mile men’s and women’s races are scheduled to begin at 8:20 a.m., with the same course from 2019 to be used.

“We are just thrilled. We are just so excited,” said Jeni Beck, the director of the Mayor’s Cup fun runs. “It has been a ton of work, and because it has been three years (since there’s been an in-person race), we forgot how much work it was. Finding volunteers because the volunteers we had three years ago a lot of them aren’t available anymore or their lives have changed, so that’s been a challenge, too. But people are stepping up right and left and that’s been wonderful.”

Due to the pandemic, the 2020 and 2021 editions were forced to be virtual races, with local runners joining entries from across the U.S. and even internationally by submitting their times on their own. And while there is still an option to run this year’s race virtually, the streets of Medford will be filled with runners this Saturday for the 44th edition of the run.

In total, 623 runners participated in last year’s virtual event.

Back in person for the first time in three years, there have been over 1,000 runners register for the 5K and 10-mile races as of Wednesday, with last-minute entries likely to boost that number.

Beck said she expects around 1,300 participants in the Mayor’s Cup fun runs.

All told, around 2,500 participants are expected to convene in downtown Medford this Saturday.

Those still interested in running in this year’s Pear Blossom Run can register at rvymca.org/pearblossomrun.

“It’s fairly less (than in 2019), but if I compare it to the last couple of virtual runs, it’s more than double,” said Whiteley of size of the 5K and 10-mile fields.

There will be around 30 runners who participate virtually — including one all the way in Germany — but their times will not be counted as official.

“What was nice about adding the virtual option is that we attracted options from all over the world,” said Beck.

Talent’s Marci Klimek will be one of the main runners to watch Saturday — and for good reason.

Klimek, who was a former Phoenix High School standout, has six Pear Blossom Run titles to her name, including a string of five straight from 2011-2015.

She also holds the course record of 57 minutes, 3 seconds for female runners, which was set during her 2015 victory.

“The community factor is the biggest part,” said Klimek when asked what she enjoys most about the Pear Blossom Run. “All of those community aspects where you get to see everybody and work together and celebrate together, that’s what makes it exciting. You can always go out and run 10 miles on your own, but with this you get those relationships and those kinds of things.”

Klimek feels like she’s entering Saturday’s 10-miler in good shape, even coming off a rough showing in a race last weekend in Eugene.

“You never know who’s going to show up, and the last time they ran this race I was still living in Boston,” said Klimek. “For me, I’ve had a really positive year of running. I had a really good marathon in December and I’ve been working with a new coach for the last year. I’ve had a bunch of PRs. Outside of last weekend, when I was at Hayward and had a total bomb of a race, it’s been positive, so after that I’m a little excited to get back off of the track and onto a course that I know has good energy.”

The last time the Pear Blossom Run was held in person in 2019, it provided one of the best local stories of the year, with then-10-year-old Esperansa Morales of Klamath Falls taking home the women’s division 10-mile title.

In last year’s virtual main events, Tyler Goens won the men’s division while Nicole Goens was the women’s division champion. In the 5K, South Medford High’s Michael Maiorano won the men’s title and Kayla Taylor won for the women.

“I think we could have some pretty quick course records,” said Beck. “You just never know who’s coming and what their talent level is.”

Regardless of who is running this Saturday, Whiteley can tell that there’s a buzz around the community again with the Pear Blossom Run back to being in person again.

“It’s a funny thing, one of the biggest values of this race is that it gets people out who wouldn’t normally be out exercising,” said Whiteley.

“In the months leading up to the Pear Blossom, you see a lot of people out and about as compared to other months. It’s the one time of the year they get themselves in really good shape.”

And, as always, it’s for a good cause, too.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that with their entry fee they’re also benefiting the YMCA,” said Whiteley. “Their entry fee is really a donation to the YMCA. They’re not only staying in shape, but they’re also benefiting our community.”

Reach reporter Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.

Marci Klimek crosses the finish line for her fifth women's victory in a row in the Pear Blossom Run in 2015. The Bend resident, who starred at Phoenix High, is one shy of the record for consecutive wins. PHOTO BY LARRY STAUTH JR.