A Vertical (Ish) Dash: Running Up San Jacinto

Runners will face a steep, steep grade, in Palm Springs.

HOW UP CAN YOU GO? You can tell a lot by a runner's time, especially when it comes to that much mythologized mile. Sure, the abilities and training and strength of the runner come into play, but the time talks about the terrain and weather and conditions, too. If an elite runner turns in a mile that takes closer to ten minutes than five, bet there was some mud, or something else, afoot (and underfoot). Likewise, if the grade is steep, that'll tell in the times as well. So, math mavens, if very talented runners are completing a 3.7-mile run in a minute or two shy of the 30-minute mark, what's the elevation gain? That's right, S.A.T.-acing smarties: The elevation gain is 2,643 feet, which is a whopper of a run up -- and up, up, up -- for a dash that's not even nearly four miles. But participants know what they're in for, when they make for the fabled course each autumn. The run happens at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, and runners hoof it from the bottom of the Tram Way to the Tram's Valley Station which is, for all accounts and purposes, up a big ol' slab of Mount San Jacinto.

SATURDAY, OCT. 25... is the date for one of the state's most unusual runs, and one of the runs with the shortest of courses. The Tram Road Challenge is six kilometers, the beneficiary is United Way of the Desert, and awards? They're given out "in each age category for both male and female finishers." As for past finishers and their times? Mexico's Rubin Garcia completed the run back in '87 in a lickety-split 26 minutes, 5 seconds, and Russia's Lubov Kremleva "set the fastest woman's time -- 28 minutes, 56 seconds in 1998." No doubt about it, running uphill in Palm Springs is one of the most brag-worthy races around, and while the hills of Bay to Breakers and other hillier trots can prep a runner, this one's in an elevated, cardio-major class by itself. See you up the mountain, runners!

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