Making the Most of Your Mile: The Solvang Mile
From an elite men's Mile field to first-time racers, there is something for everyone in this charming Danish-centric community
By Bring Back the Mile
SOLVANG, Calif. - In a village known for its Danish, fairy tale-esque charm, nestled in California wine country (think the movie Sideways and a growing micro-brew industry), the inaugural Solvang Mile this Saturday draws in an elite Men's Mile field and Milers of all ages and abilities from Southern California. From race registration at one of the local wineries, to taking a Mile tour of Copenhagen Street and enjoying the post-race festivities in Solvang, runners will intimately get to know this beautiful town in Bring Back the Mile's own backyard (stop by our table, give us a high-five, and get your very own I AM THE MILE t-shirt!).
We sat down with Race Director Alex Kehaya of North American Athletics and a local teacher at the Dunn School as well as one of the first year participants (and embarking on his first ever race) Frank Charlton.
BBTM: Alex, take us through the origins of The Solvang Mile.
Alex: My brother James and I came up with the idea for a Mile road race in Solvang. James founded North American Athletics, an athletic event management and promotions company, and as a local teacher at Dunn School I thought beautiful Copenhangen Street would make for a perfect Mile course. The Solvang Mile is the result of months of hard work by the NAA team, the City of Solvang, and our sponsors.
How has the community response been for a town that is used to drinking wine and running half-marathons?
Alex: The response has been great. Our sponsors and everybody that works for the city has put in a lot of time to help get The Solvang Mile off the ground. Especially Deputy Charlie Uhrig and Diane Christensen; I owe them a lot for all of their help.
What role do you think the Mile can play as a stepping stone to higher levels of fitness or even as part of a yearly schedule to those already competing in longer races?
Alex: The Mile is a great distance for anyone to take on; for people wanting to improve their fitness and happiness. The Solvang Mile is all about promoting local business and fitness in the community. Whether your a beginner or an experienced runner the Mile is a great distance for goal setting. Whatever your fitness level, the Mile is the distance where runners can find out what their human potential is.
Frank Charlton is a racer who is actually participating in his first race ever. Frank, what drew you to the Solvang Mile?
Frank: My athletic background is definitely none and I’ve been overweight much of my life. I even failed at the President’s Fitness test in elementary school. I was at a friend’s house and his mom was talking about CrossFit and this paleo diet. I figured if she can do it at 60-70 years of age then I can do it too.
I’m from Thousand Oaks, but work in Santa Barbara, so I joined CrossFit Pacific Coast there. We did an eight week whole life challenge to eat well, focusing on the paleo diet to lose weight. The community keeps a great online forum supporting one another during the process.
One piece of advice was to always have a race in the books to look forward to; something you’ve spent money on to help keep you motivated. So, I did some research, but with my lack of an athletic background even a 5K is much too intimidating. I found the shortest race I could find, the Solvang Mile, taking place in a special place for me and my wife, Jessica, given we go up there for wine tasting.
How has the training process been leading up to your first race and do you think you'll be up for more in the future?
Frank: I spoke to Jessica about it and not only was she supportive of it, she also decided to complete the Mile with me. We’re running 2-3 times a week now and we look forward to getting home, putting on our shoes and heading out for our Mile before continuing on with our evening. The plan is to run as a couple and cross the finish line together for this first one. This is a great stepping stone and we look forward to increasing the distance, perhaps a 5K in the Winter.
Alex, in addition to providing a great experience for athletes of all abilities, North American Athletics is also focusing efforts on providing great opportunities for professional athletes. What does it mean to you to work with these athletes and connecting them to your community?
Alex: Elite runners are examples of our human potential. One of the reasons the Mile is so special is because of Roger Bannister breaking four minutes in the Mile, a mark people didn't think was humanly possible. These athletes inspire others to push their limits and reach for their goals. We look forward to connecting our community with such exceptional athletes that can inspire people to believe what they can achieve.
The town of Solvang is a uniquely wonderful Danish town about 120 miles north of Los Angeles. How can participants best take advantage of the post-race festivities and supporting businesses:
Alex: Participants can enjoy the festival and expo area in Solvang Park that will include live music, games, and exposure to local business and non-profits. Additionally, there will be a Finish Line Celebration at Solvang Brewing Company's new Windmill Tasting Room that will include complimentary beer tastings, live music and free appetizers for all participants.
By the way, when was the last time you ran a Mile and how fast do you think you could tackle the Solvang Mile loop course in?
Alex: The last time I ran a timed mile was when I began planning for this event many months ago. I ran the time in 5:15. My PR is 4:55.