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Klimek puts forward a Pear to remember

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Talent resident breaks course record en route to seventh Pear Blossom Run title

As Marci Klimek made the final turn onto South Oakdale, there was no doubt as to who the top woman at the 46th annual Pear Blossom Run was going to be.

It was just a matter of whether Klimek would break her own course record.

She did, and with plenty of room to spare.

The Phoenix native, who now resides in Talent, announced her return to the race she holds so close to her heart in about as strong of a fashion as she could. Klimek claimed her seventh Pear Blossom win — her first since 2017 — in record fashion, with a time of 56 minutes, 45 seconds, breaking her previous mark set in 2015 by 18 seconds.

“It’s exactly how I remember it,” said Klimek with a big grin. “It was really fun to get out here. ... This course is a treat because you cut back on yourself. You got the whole crowd as you come back, which I absolutely love. You don’t get that at a lot of courses. It’s a good feeling and everybody feels like they’re in it together no matter what pace you’re running.”

Just for added measure, Klimek’s record time was the fourth-best mark overall for men or women Saturday.

“I think some of the top gals around the area weren’t here today because they’re training for (the Eugene marathon),” said Klimek, “but definitely to be in the mix with the top five or 10 guys feels really good. I’m really excited about that. It just gets spread out having so many male runners around, just having anybody to run with makes such a big difference.”

One of the most decorated champions in the Pear Blossom Run’s 4-1/2-decade history, Klimek made her way back into the field after not being in the area in 2019, the last time the race was held in person.

She was living in Boston then, only able to follow the Pear Blossom from afar.

After moving back to the area and waiting for the race to be in-person again, it was this run that she had been highly anticipating.

Everything she remembered from the last time she was in the Pear Blossom field was just as it was back then — the final turn onto South Oakdale, the climb up Hanley Hill, hearing North Medford track coach Piet Voskes on the microphone as the emcee.

It was all there like she never left.

And so was the fact that she found her name atop the women’s leaderboard again.

“We’re glad to have you back,” race director Chuck Whiteley, with a grin as large as can be, told Klimek after the two posed for a picture following her record-setting run.

You can understand why.

Klimek won five straight Pear Blossom runs from 2011-2015, setting the previous course record of 57:03 during the 2015 victory. After not running in 2016, Klimek returned to the field and got her sixth victory in 2017.

She was the name to focus on entering Saturday’s return to in-person racing. In a 10-mile field that topped out at nearly 400 runners, Klimek’s return was the one Whiteley and others were looking forward to the most.

She didn’t disappoint.

Even after running, as she said earlier in the week, “a bomb of a race” last weekend at the Hayward Premier in Eugene, Klimek was dominant in her win Saturday. She was the lone woman to finish her race in under an hour, and her pace of 5:41 per mile was one of the best marks by either gender.

Ashland’s Natalie Chirgwin finished second with a time of 1:02:33. Rachel Hawkins (1:05:24) of Glide was third, while Jacksonville’s Sierra Brown (1:05:31) and Central Point’s Ashley Folsom (1:06:45) rounded out the top five.

Klimek credits a big reason for her success Saturday to Logan Pine, who ran alongside her to keep her pace up and eventually ended up finishing third in the men’s race.

Klimek said she started to feel it a little bit heading into the turn at Hanley Hill, but she credits Pine for helping her pull through and finish the second half of the race strong.

“He was huge, just huge,” said Klimek of Pine, a member of Evolve Track Club. “The race really spreads out over 10 miles, so otherwise you’re just kinda stranded. Even as he gapped me a little bit, just having him as a target to hold onto helps immensely. It’s a huge difference. He saved my day.”

All in all, Klimek summed up her day as a “solid” one.

“I think that I can maybe run faster next year,” she said. “but I think that’s what every runner wants to believe and that there’s another PR ahead. I think there’s a little letdown there.”

Yes, Klimek already plans on being in next year’s Pear Blossom Run, meaning there won’t be such a long amount of time between appearances like there was the last time after a win.

With the way she continues to run, that means the course record is at risk of getting faster and faster.

It doesn’t hurt that she truly loves running the Pear Blossom, too.

“It was beautiful out. You can’t beat this,” Klimek said. “This is such a fun event, and it’s easy to get out here and have good energy. It’s what I needed personally, and it helps so much on the course when you make the turn back around and you see everybody cheering for you. You can wave back at them and it gets you out of your head knowing that there’s energy around you from the community.

“I always feel really honored to be a part of this community and to run in this community. It’s a beautiful place and it’s full of really resilient, great people.”

Women’s Pear Blossom 10-mile run

Saturday’s Results (Top 50)

1, Marci Klimek, 56:45; 2, Natalie Chirgwin, 1:02:33; 3, Rachel Hawkins, 1:05:24; 4, Sierra Brown, 1:05:31; 5, Ashley Folsom, 1:06:45; 6, Robin Garnica, 1:07:34; 7, McKale Bladen, 1:08:05; 8, Kierra Huggins, 1:08:06; 9, Natalie Lindo, 1:08:13; 10, Ellery Barney, 1:08:29.

11, Janelle Ralph, 1:09:14; 12, Leslie Fox, 1:09:28; 13, Karen Kidwell, 1:11:34; 14, Shannon Schiavone, 1:13:02; 15, Kathryn Turpin, 1:13:46; Mary Cunningham, 1:14:55; 17, Christian Fabich, 1:14:18; 18, Shayla Bailey, 1:14:29; 19, Wendy Yates, 1:15:12; 20, Keeley Damon, 1:15:37.

21, Karolina Lavagnino, 1:17:14; 22, Krista Yardley, 1:17:46; 23, Lauren Folsom, 1:19:01; 24, MaKenna Williams, 1:19:04; 25, Lisa Stevens, 1:19:22; 26, Melissa Jackson, 1:19:50; 27, Erin Graf, 1:20:04; 28, Addie Jensen, 1:20:30; 29, Summer Couch, 1:20:69; 30, Janessa Scheuneman, 1:21:32.

31, Kristina Scheuneman, 1:21:35; 32, Audrey Barden, 1:21:56; 33, Rudi Montoya, 1:22:28; 34, Molly Moncrief, 1:23:07; 35, Gene de Haan, 1:23:14; 36, Heather Allen, 1:23:22; 37, Sarah Pedrojetti, 1:23:32; 38, Teresa Bowen, 1:23:55; 39, Heather Jones, 1:23:57; 40, Cindy Mcgihon, 1:24:38.

41, Athena Fliegel, 1:24:51; 42, Susan Holt, 1:25:13; 43, Bonnie Havens, 1:25:20; 44, Natalie Rice, 1:25:24; 45, Elisabeth Sturm, 1:26:10; 46, Karen Baas, 1:26:59; 47, Amy Botillier, 1:27:01; 48, Kristina Alvarez, 1:27:11; 49, Lauren Smith, 1:27:14; 50, Laura Rommes, 1:27:19.

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

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Marci Klimek of Talent crosses the finish line winning the Pear Blossom 10-mile run in downtown Medford Saturday morning.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Marci Klimek of Talent nears the finish line winning the Pear Blossom 10-mile run in downtown Medford Saturday morning.
Photo by Larry Stauth Jr Talent resident Marci Klimek strides Hanley Farm, at the 5-mile mark during the 2022 Pear Blossom 10-mile run on Saturday.
Photo by Larry Stauth Jr Talent resident Marci Klimek strides up Hanley Hill during the 2022 Pear Blossom 10-mile run on Saturday.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneMarci Klimek and Logan Pine run together during the first mile the Pear Blossom 10-mile run in downtown Medford Saturday morning.