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Wednesday, May 20, 2009 01:01 am

Bike and run, a pace for everyone

The 2008 Women’s Distance Festival.

As the summer sun emerges and time-consumers like Lost and Dancing with the Stars end (just for the season!), the capital city’s trails and parks come alive with walkers, joggers and bikers.

Some are veterans. They’ve been doing this for years, know their split times and don’t mind donning spandex. Others are more casual. They get a kick out of the camaraderie that comes from working out in pairs or even groups. Two Springfield clubs accommodate both sets of athletes through a combination of fun summer activities and challenging rides and races.

The Springfield Bicycle Club leads rides nearly every day of the year to diverse destinations, with varying distances and speeds. For novice riders looking to improve their skills, vice president Kevin Greene recommends one of the club’s relaxed-paced “EZ” rides. The club offers a 19-mile Sunday morning ride down the Interurban Trail to Chatham with a rest stop at the Apple Barn. Participating cyclists learn group riding practices and safety techniques.

More experienced cyclists seeking a moderate pace, between 15 and 17 miles per hour, can join the Monday evening ride that meets at the Parkway Pointe Theatre. Greene says it’s one of the club’s most popular weekday rides, bringing together cyclists with similar riding interests.

The SBC hosts weekend rides that end with social events, like barbecues or picnics. Cyclists first head out on country roads, riding anywhere from 25 to 40 miles.

“These rides tend to attract cyclists of varying abilities,” Greene says, “ranging from fast-paced performance riders to intermediate and social riders who are working to improve their skills and endurance.”

Club cyclists participate in several long-distance rides around the state and in the Midwest. They ride in Madison County on Memorial Day weekend, to Franklin for Burgoo — a special concoction of various meats and veggies — on July 4 and in the Tour de Corn Metric Century, part of the Chatham Sweetcorn Festival, on July 18.

SBC members join the Grand Illinois Trails and Parks ride, a weeklong tour through the northern part of the state that offers riders routes from 310 to 585 miles, on June 14-20. They even travel to Iowa to participate in The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, the “longest, largest and oldest touring bicycle ride in the world.” This year riders follow a 472-mile course from Council Bluffs to Burlington July 19-25.

In addition, the SBC sponsors the Capital City Century, offering 10-, 25-, 40-, 62-, and 100-mile recreational rides to more than 600 Illinois cyclists on Sept. 13.

Robert LaBonte of the Springfield Bicycle Club holds a sign with the bike routes.

The Springfield Road Runners Club, the area’s collection of joggers and runners, has grown to more than 1,300 members since it formed in 1980. In the summer, members meet for informal group runs in Washington Park during the week and take off from various Springfield spots like downtown’s Café Moxo on weekends.

“A major benefit of club membership is getting to know other runners so you can customize your training runs, times and locations,” says club president Barb Bonansinga.

Katie McAfee, a veteran member, leads group speed-work training every Wednesday through the fall. Runners of all pace groups participate; the group runs at Washington Park until the Sacred Heart Griffin track becomes available.

The SRRC offers Abe’s Army for new walkers and runners. The 12-week program divides participants into groups based on their fitness levels and prepares them for Abe’s Amble — a 10K road race held on the last day of the Illinois State Fair. Abe’s Army trains on Monday evenings from June through August.

Club members run in a variety of summer races throughout the central Illinois area, beginning with the Passavant-Powerade 5K and 10K on May 30 in Jacksonville. The 17th annual 5K (3.1 miles) and 10K (6.2 miles) begin at Passavant Area Hospital and direct runners through residential areas on the city’s west side.

The SRRC hosts the Women’s Distance Festival on July 11 at Washington Park. The 2-mile race celebrates women’s rights and commemorates the 1979 race held in response to the lack of women’s Olympic distance races. Participants can also visit the health fair, with screenings and information for women and children. Event proceeds go to Girls on the Run, a nonprofit organization that promotes fitness for preteen girls.

In addition to Abe’s Amble, this year held on Aug. 23, the SRRC hosts the Carlberg Design Parade Run during the Illinois State Fair. The 2-mile race around the fairgrounds kicks off at 5:30 p.m. August 13.

For more information on the Springfield Bicycle Club and the Springfield Road Runners Club, visit www.spfldcycling.org and www.srrc.net.

Abe’s Army gets newcomers into shape.

Contact Amanda Robert at arobert@illinoistimes.com.

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