It isn’t uncommon to hit traffic on the Los Gatos Creek Trail on any given Saturday morning. Rain or shine, the residents of Los Gatos and its surrounding area, are out and about, staying active and embracing the nature that surrounds them.
While groups like San Jose Fit, and Team and Training hit the trails by the masses, very often runners are in pairs or cruising solo on their morning jog. Without intending to, these active residents often develop a bond having exchanged limited words but hundreds of shared smiles and waves over the years!
Once a year, these runners come together to celebrate their community and their passion for running and walking at the Rotary Club of Los Gatos Annual Great Race.
In 2013, the Rotary Club will host it’s 36th running of the event, making it one of the oldest and most classic running events of the Bay Area. Although many other road races have flooded the Bay Area over the last decade, this event has shown it can withstand the test of time with participants increasing by 12% from 2011 to 2012!
As a Los Gatos resident myself, I had the pleasure of catching up with Head Race Director, and Rotary Club member, Mike Norcia to find out what makes this event so special!
VISIT WWW.LOSGATOSROTARYGREATRACE.ORG FOR MORE INFORMATION
Interview with Head Race Director, Mike Norcia
RF: Can you share with us the history of the Great Race and how you became involved with directing the event?
MN: The Great Race was started back in 1978 and Rotary took it over in the early 80’s. Initially, it was run in both directions so runners could choose the uphill (LG-Saratoga) or downhill (Saratoga-LG) direction. As it became a larger event, that became logistically infeasible. Since that time, it has become part of the fabric of the health-conscious Los Gatos area. Personally, I ran the race a dozen time including the first races in 1978 and 1979, so when I joined Rotary in 2003, chairing the event was a perfect fit.
RF: The Great Race is known to be a family event! How do you ensure the event is inclusive for all community members regardless of age or ability?
MN: The event is perfect for families because of its length and its familiarity. The 4 mile length- and the fact that it is net downhill- allows kids as young as 6 years old to participate. The live music and Fun & Fitness Fair make it a very fun morning for the family. We also provide a discount to the 4th family member to register.
RF: We know the Rotary motto is “Service above Self”, can you share with us, a few initiatives that have been funded by the Rotary Club of Los Gatos as a result of the funds raised by this event?
MN: Proceeds from this event support local initiatives such as the Scholarship Foundation for South Bay high school seniors, and leadership conferences for high school juniors; Boy and Girl Scouts, YMCA, Second Harvest Food Bank, Hospice of the Valley, amongst others. Internationally, Rotary supports are the Polio Eradication Project, Wheelchair Foundation Rotoplast and other initiatives in cooperation with local Rotary clubs in the Philippines and India. We also have a contest in which students from Los Gatos and Leigh high schools design the race logo. The winner receives a $100 cash award as does the graphic arts class.
RF: Give us your best “elevator description” of the course, from start to finish. How would you rank it in difficult on a scale of 1-10!
MN: The course is fast- 4 miles with only 2 turns with the last stretch coming into Los Gatos all downhill.
RF:Tell us about the Fun & Fitness Fair? What types of activities can runners expect to find?
MN: Runners will find live music, food and local massage therapists at the Fun & Fitness Fair as well as booths from some of our sponsors. This is where runners will also pick up their race t-shirts. In the past, we have handed out shirts to anyone who registers in person at Athletic Performance. We are moving towards having most of our participants using on-line registration which can be found at www.losgatosrotarygreatrace.org. We will have bib/chip pick-up before the race and t-shirts being handed out by representatives of our presenting sponsor, The Sereno Group.
RF: You’ve been a resident of the area for several years—how has this event developed/changed over the years and what has allowed it to withstand the competition from all the other events in the Bay Area?
MN: This event has really been woven into the fabric of the South Bay. We have many participants who have done the event for over 20 years. So regardless of the abundance of races now available every weekend, people like the community feel of this race so they keep coming back. The major change has been the date. It used to be run in February, but it was decided to move it to April where the weather tends to be much more cooperative.
RF: Does the race committee have a specific goal or theme for the 36th annual event?
MN: We would like to push the race participants in excess of 2,000. This would be great for the event and also for the worthy projects Rotary supports.
Who is the oldest person to ever run the Great Race? Not sure, but we do have a winner in our 80-85 category each year.
What is the course record? We had a Kenyan run the race in 2009 who was trying to secure a college scholarship and he completed the course in just over 18 minutes. That was even more impressive as he had just competed in and won a race in Pleasanton the day before.
What is the most outrageous thing you’ve ever seen at the event? We have had a person complete the entire course on stilts.
What do you hope to see more of in 2013? We hope to continue to see the trend in families participating in the event together.
What 3 adjectives best describe the event? Family, Fast and Fun!
REGISTER ONLINE at: www.LosGatosRotaryGreatRace.org
About the Author: Chantelle Wilder (@chanty_marie) is the Senior Editor and Co-Founder of Runners Feed. She also competes for the New Balance Silicon Valley club in the Bay Area of California. When she isn’t running, or editing she can be found enjoying the fruitful wines of nearby Napa Valley while challenging her husband to a game of Bananagrams®.