On the Run

runners along a trailFourteen thousand people lined up at the wharf in Santa Cruz Sunday before last at 8:30 a.m. Within an hour, give or take a little, they would all be in Capitola jamming the streets, crowding the once empty beach, laughing, sweating, jostling for water, listening to the band as they queued up to board buses back to Santa Cruz. What form of midsummer madness was this? This was the Wharf to Wharf, a run billed as “The best little road race in California”. The first fourteen thousand to sign up got a chance to run along the edge of the mighty Pacific from Santa Cruz to Capitola on a gorgeous Sunday in summer. The event had been sold out for more than a month.

Almost every Sunday, and sometimes Saturday, no matter where you are in the country, you will find similar goings on, although usually on a smaller scale. Runners, legs twitching, rise early and hit the road. They run in the sun and in the rain, in the cold and in the heat. They run on beaches, in mountains, and on streets. They run alone or together. Some run for health, or for personal challenge, or for charity, or for pure joy.

I was in Capitola, but not as a runner. I was there to pass out flyers for Ron’s Wildlife Run that takes place at YSI’s Vasona site in September. Talk about targeting your market! There is no better way to find people willing to run than in a crowd of thousands who have just crossed a finish line. Once they cross that line, they know they can and will do it again.

A dozen, or more, boats bobbed off shore. The fog flirted with the sun as the front-runners came through. These elite fleet-of-foot athletes were followed by groups of pursuers and then wave upon wave of ordinary mortals out celebrating the day. Soon my companions and I were passing out flyers as fast as we could to outstretched hands of triumphant runners who were already dreaming of future mornings running, carefree as children, under sunny blue skies.

Putting on a run is not a simple matter, as I have come to find out. YSI has been doing its run in the fall as a fund-raiser for seventeen years, seven of those years before I came to YSI. The success of a run lies largely with the Race Director, and YSI has had some champions at this. Ron Becker, a runner and YSI board member, started the Run in 1984. When he died at far-too-young an age, his friend and fellow runner, Jack Hubby, joined the board and took over as race director.

What is involved in putting on event that attracts eight hundred runners? Well, there are permits and sponsors, publicity and porta-potties, shuttle buses and volunteers, food and drink, emergency services and public address systems, traffic cones and police, registration forms and timers, course measurements and banners, just to name a few things. And every year in the weeks before the run, Jack, who coordinates all this as a volunteer, threatens never to do it again.

But like the runners in Capitola on Sunday, when he reaches the finish line, Jack always knows he can and will do it again.

Ron’s Wildlife Run, a timed 10K run, 5K run/walk, and 2K for kids will be Sunday, September 17, at Vasona Park in Los Gatos. For registration forms or information: (408) 356-4945 or www.ysi-ca.org

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