Pear Blossom Run founder excited for 47th annual race

MEDFORD, Ore. – The 47th annual Pear Blossom Run is set to begin at 7 a.m. sharp Saturday morning.

For some, this will be their first time participating.

However, it’ll be far from it for others, like Mike Barrett and race co-founder Jerry Swartsley.

Until last year, both men had run in every single race since its conception in 1977.

For Jerry and his wife Zellah, who he founded the race with, the Pear Blossom Run is more than just an annual competition.

“It’s the people, it’s hearing all the stories, seeing all the people, and the things that have happened,” Jerry Swartsley said. “High energy, there’s so much energy, you can’t describe it unless you’ve participated in it.”

Mike Barrett is all too familiar with that energy and looking back on his four-decades-plus of participating, he has nothing but high praise for the race’s founders.

“They put 40-plus years of their life into the thing, and it’s just amazing how it continues to grow after they have departed,” Barrett exclaimed. “But the community needs to take their hat off to those two young people as to what they did.”

Since the run started in 1977, the race has added a 5K, the Mayor’s Cup, and a scholarship that rewards one high school senior runner in the Rogue Valley every year.

The race itself has also expanded from 500 people back in 1977 to over 5,000 each year.

That kind of growth is something Jerry said he couldn’t have imagined when it all began almost half a century ago.

“That’s pretty hard to believe,” Jerry explained. “We did it for 35 years and turned it over to the YMCA and of course the YMCA, they’ve taken it to another level and that is absolutely what you want to see when you retire and turn it over to somebody.”

After their break last year, Jerry and Mike both said they will be racing on Saturday with no end in sight.

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Ethan McReynolds is a reporter and weekend anchor for NBC5 News. He grew up in Bothell, Washington and graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Broadcasting and minors in Journalism and Sport Management. At Gonzaga, he started his own sports podcast. Ethan loves rooting for his hometown Seattle sports teams, especially the Mariners. He loves playing baseball, basketball, and soccer. He is also an avid Taylor Swift fan.
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