Runners and bikers to descend on Medford

Runners and bikers rejoice.

Medford will be hosting two events for the athletically inclined and sporty spectators on Saturday, June 30: The Independence Day 5K and 10K Summer Classics and the Tour de Medford bike races.

Both races will begin bright and early in the morning.

For the runners

The Pineland Striders, a running club based in Medford, will be presenting their annual road races beginning and ending at Shawnee High School.

“This race here is the 35th edition,” said race director and club treasurer Bill Tanski, and it is the club’s biggest event of the year.

The Striders have a long history and were created in 1979. They currently have approximately 200 area members.

Runners will have their choice of either a 5K or 10K road race, both beginning at 8:30 a.m. The youngsters will not be left out, either, with a one-mile fun run starting at 8 a.m.

Tanski suggests arriving by 7:30 a.m. for the ideal experience.

The runs will take place on the roads surrounding the high school including Bearhead Road and McKendimen Road.

“It’s fairly well-shaded,” he said.

For runners’ safety, there will be three water stops along the way as well.

Some 90 percent of those who participate will run the distance, Tanski said.

Annual runners will see some changes this time around.

“This year it’s going to be quite different,” he said. “We say at least, at minimum, 300 runners, probably 400 runners this year.”

Last year, in turn, had only 175 participants.

“We’ve done more work on the marketing side,” explained Tanski. “We have a whole plethora of raffle prizes.”

Runners will have a fair shot at bringing an item home with them.

Rita’s Water Ice will be handing out 100 coupons; there will be six pounds of Starbucks coffee, a Harry & David gift basket and plenty more gift certificates and passes to area shops and restaurants.

Raffles will be given out early in the morning so the runners can continue on with their days.

“We’re very runner friendly,” he said.

In addition to raffle prizes, there will be awards given to each age group in five-year increments.

“We have a lot of awards,” he said.

For the first time, participants will be given tech shirts rather than the usual cotton material. Tanski explained that tech shirts hold perspiration better.

“It takes a small army of people to put this together,” he said, with approximately 50 volunteers helping out.

The races will be benefitting the Precious Gems Memorial, a local cause in remembrance of four Medford teenagers who were killed by a drunken driver in 1999.

Mike Geiger, the father of one of the late girls, is a former Striders president.

“We’ve always had the desire and commitment and need to give back to the community,” Tanski said. “We expect to give more money back to the Precious Gems. They are performing training to local law enforcement for death notifications.”

Hopeful participants can register the day of the race for a fee of $25.

“It will be our grandest and biggest event in at least 15 years,” said Tanski.

Visit http://striderindependenceraces.com for more information.

For the bikers

Closer to the main stretch of town, the 10th annual Tour de Medford’s Pro and Amateur bike races are scheduled to commence at 8:30 a.m. and continue until 1 p.m.

The community is welcomed to head out to watch the races.

According to a release sent by Beth Portocalis, there will be five events for cyclists, “including a Senior Men’s Category 4/5 20-lap event; a Master Men’s 35+ 24-lap event, and a Senior Men’s Pro & 1-2-3 35-lap event. The Senior Men’s 1/2/3 and the Master Men’s 35+ events are a part of the prestigious MAXXIS Garden State Cup Series.”

Racers must hold an USA Cycling license to compete.

The events will be held in either rain or shine, but will be canceled if there are thunderstorms or road flooding, the release said.

The racecourse will be a loop starting on South Main Street in front of the Medford Memorial Community Center. It will continue to Union Street, down to Allen Avenue and then back to South Main Street.

According to www.bikereg.com the course is “a challenging .85 mile circuit with three left hand turns. A gentle downhill on the back side of the course and a slight rise to the start/finish area.”

It is considered one of the most challenging criterium courses in the state, it continues.

“People can’t really miss it,” said race director Ken Mills, which is unique to Medford. Many racecourses are hidden at business parks.

Close to 400 cyclists potentially may race in the town, he said.

Registration will begin at 7:30 a.m. and close 15 minutes before the start of each race at the community center, 21 South Main St.

Each of the fees for the pro races is $35 with an extra $10 for race-day entries.

Children will have special races at no cost.

The races were moved to June from the original month of August to avoid vacation season and bring a larger crowd to the event.

Online registration is available through Friday, June 29 at noon on www.bikereg.com/Net/16580.

View more information on www.usacycling.org.