I don't know if there's another footrace in the world that takes place on an auto test track, but I'm betting the Goodyear 10k & Half Marathon is unique on that point. I know many of us are looking forward to adding it to our list of quirky life experiences.
I asked Goodyear spokesman Keith Price if he could share a few highlights of the track so we can appreciate it even more.
The track opened in 1981. The entire "proving grounds" is 82 acres in all, of which 18 acres is paved.
Goodyear has other tracks - most of its U.S. testing is done at San Angelo, Texas - but the track connected to Goodyear's world headquarters in Akron has had its special moments.
** NASCAR Day was held during the 1990s when several top drivers, crews, cars, and trailers set up for a display to sign autographs for the public. This included Dale Earnhardt Sr., Bill Elliott and others. They even drove their IROC (International Race of Champions) race cars on the track.
** Former Formula 1 world champion Jackie Stewart has tested there.
** Former "Cheers" star John Ratzenberger hit the track in 2004 for an episode of his "Made in America" show on Travel Channel that featured Goodyear.
** Off-road racing's top star, Walker Evans, gave rides in his racing truck during a product launch in the early 1990s, using the property's mounds and hills, rather than the paved track.
I must admit, though, I'm glad we're not the first racers to give it a go. Apparently the Akron Marathon learned a few lessons that made them change the course this year.
Previously, the race ended with a spin around the track, which turned out to be a bit hellish for a couple of reasons. First, those 18 acres of heat-absorbing pavement made for a pretty grueling final mile. The other obstacle was a mental one: I'm told that when you're running for a mile on a black oval - especially when you're exhausted - it can feel as if the finish line is never getting any closer.
At this year's Aug. 12 race, we'll start out with a lap around the track when it's cooler in the day and we're still fresh with enthusiasm!
-- Paula Schleis