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36th Annual Great Race Unites Los Gatos, Saratoga in Fitness, Camaraderie

Downtown Los Gatos welcomed 1,536 runners on Sunday.

Update: 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 1: The Los Gatos Afternoon Rotary Club's Great Race Sunday, April 28 had a total of 1,484 registered participants and a total of about 130 volunteers including Rotarians, Boy Scout Troop 2, Girls on the Run, and Interact students from Los Gatos High School.

According to organizers, the race raised $55,000, one-third of which will go into the service club's  scholarship foundation and the other two-thirds to the projects listed below. 

Youth Programs:

  • Interact Clubs (a Rotary sponsored service club) at both Leigh and Los Gatos high schools
  • Annual leadership and entrepreneurialism camps for high school students
  • Race logo is designed by high school student as part of a graphics arts contest in their class
  • Camp Everytown at Leigh High School
  • Bridge Builders at Union Middle School
  • Boys and Girls Scouts

Community and International Programs:

  • Second Harvest Food Bank
  • Hospice of the Valley
  • Hope Rehabilitation Services
  • Polio Eradication Project
  • Rotoplast and Children's Corrective Services

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In the late '70s as a teen, Sereno Group Founder and CEO Chris Trapani remembers the Great Race closing off roadways, signaling springtime and gathering up community members for a day of healthy fun.

Twelve years of participating in the race himself, Trapani couldn't think of a better event to help sponsor when he began the Sereno Group in 2006.

Now in its 36th year, the Los Gatos Rotary Club's annual Great Race has blossomed into an event that hosted 1,536 Bay Area runners and walkers this Sunday, April 28.

Beginning in downtown Saratoga, the Great Race runs a four-mile stretch along Highway 9 until North Santa Cruz Avenue in downtown Los Gatos.

According to Los Gatos Rotarian Mike Norcia, who has been the race director for the past several years, the event underwent a few changes before running smoothly from Saratoga to Los Gatos.

"When it first started, you used to be able to run from either Saratoga or Los Gatos and cross paths with the other runners," he said. "Finally, someone said it should go from Saratoga to Los Gatos."

The change, according to Norcia, united the two communities into one huge group of friends.

This year, the streets of downtown Saratoga and Los Gatos were bustling with dogs of nearly every breed, families, mothers trucking along with strollers and local youth.

Proceeds collected by the event, according to Los Gatos Afternoon Rotary Club President Paul Christensen, are allocated to a variety of charities within the community.

"One-third of the proceeds go to scholarships," Christensen said, explaining more than $30,000 are aimed at helping local students.

The rest of funds raised go toward scouting, local schools, St. Luke's Kitchen to help feed the local homeless population, and youth organizations such as the Youth Science Institute, Counseling and Support Services for Youth, or CASSY, and veterans or war projects, Christensen said.

The Great Race is one of two primary fundraisers that the Los Gatos Afternoon Rotary Club hosts each year.

Christensen and Norcia said the event is also unique in that it welcomes runners with all types of experience.

Even those runners who did not begin the race on time at 9 a.m. are able to clock their own personal time thanks to small microchips placed on their shoes tracked by an electronic timer at the finish line.

Open for brunch, lunch, and casual shopping, downtown Los Gatos was busy with visiting runners and locals as the race unwound around 10:30 a.m. Many took advantage of the Los Gatos Farmers' Market at Town Place Park.

The accompanying Fun and Fitness Fair had several booths representing many of the race sponsoring businesses, including Los Gatos Patch. Each booth was giving away goodies to participants who also enjoyed free bottles of water, oranges slices, bananas and great music.

Results at 10:36 a.m. Sunday confirmed the top five runners as being:

  1. Cm "Run-Fast" April, an employee at Sportissimo Los Gatos, completed the race in 21:38.
  2. Daniel Chiriaev of Campbell completed the race in 22.05.
  3. Ryan Bise of Los Gatos completed the race in 22:40.
  4. Joshua Run-Fast* completed the race in 22:44.
  5. Jun Cao of Los Gatos completed the race in 22:49.

For complete race results, please click here.

*Names were registered under aliases.

Editor's Note: This article was written for Los Gatos Patch as part of a San Jose State University journalism class assignment. The writer welcomes your feedback and comments.

Cyrus Tabari April 29, 2013 at 03:47 PM
With all due respect to my friend Chris, my memory (which admittedly could be faulty) is that the Great Race used to be held in February, and they moved it to April sometime in the 1990's. Also, here is a bit of trivia: The sponser of the race in the 1980's was Saratoga Savings, whose Los Gatos office was in the building currently occupied by the Sereno Group.
Sue April 29, 2013 at 04:03 PM
Also, of interest the race used to alternate routes. One year we would run from Saratoga to Los Gatos and the next year we would run from Los Gatos to Saratoga. It has always been a unifying community event inspiring runners of all ages to get in shape.
Chris Trapani April 30, 2013 at 04:53 AM
Cy- Great memory. I do remember Saratoga Savings and Loan being involved early on and they were located in the same building where Sereno Group is today - Someone also mentioned that there was originally a competition between Saratoga and Los Gatos and the racers would start at each end and race in two directions. I do not remember this exactly but seems pretty reasonable that it may have started as a friendly competition. Thank you!
Sheila Sanchez (Editor) May 01, 2013 at 03:39 PM
Just updated this story with more concrete stats from the Great Race. Amazing effort by our Los Gatos Afternoon Rotary Club members. Thank you.

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