Friday, January 30, 2015

100-mile veterans and recreactional runners find same pace with Golden Valley Harriers

From page B1 | July 23, 2013 |

Golden Valley Harrier Bruce LaBelle gets near the Auburn finish area of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run. All three GVH members that competed in the June event finished within 24 hours, with LaBelle accomplishing the feat for an incredible 10th time. Dan Lanherr/Courtesy photo

Imagine the requisite athleticism it’d take to run for 100 miles, up an 18,000 foot incline and back down nearly 23,000 feet, with summer’s ever-present 100 degree heat bearing down.

“It’s pretty much the Super Bowl of ultra-running,” local runner Martin Sengo said of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run. “There’s no bigger or more renowned event. It also just happens to be in our backyard.”

And there’s a Davis-based group of passionate runners — known as the Golden Valley Harriers — taking advantage of the fact that this intense trek starts and ends in Northern California; on a mountainous trail from Squaw Valley into Auburn.

Three members of this two-decade-old running club — Bruce Labelle, Alex McDaniel and Di Wu — competed in the 2013 Western States run in June, and each completed it within 24 hours.

And though all of the local running crew is deserved respect for even crossing the finish line (not all entrants of the race achieve that much), it was a special honor for Labelle, as it was his 10th finish under the 24-hour mark.

“Instead of receiving the regular award, a belt buckle that reads ‘100 miles, one day,’ I got one that reads ‘1,000 miles, 10 days,’ ” Labelle said. “It’s relatively rare to have that given out, and it was a fun challenge to achieve.”

Even more significant is the accomplishment in context: Labelle is a 57-year-old man who first participated in the Western States event more than 20 years ago. He’s for that long been in shape enough to compete in other ultra-marathons and trail runs.

Actually, Labelle doesn’t subscribe to the idea that it’s all in the fitness level. He’s found that the key to success actually is patience, and equated it to the difference been youthful hastiness and the calm demeanor that comes with maturity.

His goal now is to help other Golden Valley Harrier members prepare themselves physically (and mentally) for these lengthy events; runners like Sengo, a Davis resident who aspires to don the congratulatory belt buckle one day.

The GVH crew includes runners of all levels, from those on a constant pursuit of bettering times in the most challenging of races, to those content with personal betterment of any sort.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the latter mindset, as UC Davis researcher and amateur runner Paula Checchi can attest. She does it for a reason that speaks to the nation’s oft-cited obesity epidemic.

“My family has all struggled with weight issues, and a lot of them have problems with heart disease and diabetes,” she said. “I really don’t want that to happen to me, which is part of why I like to run — to keep an active lifestyle.”

While she’s done 50-mile trail runs (exhausting in its own right), the Western States Endurance Run is somewhat off her radar.

“I’m still not sure that I see myself as having the guts to do it,” she admits, “but it’s really inspiring, the people who are out there.”

Then again, she recalls a time when she told her husband there was no way she’d ever run more than a half marathon (less than 15 miles on average), and ended up running 50 miles shortly thereafter.

“The trail running group here is pretty convincing in terms of their ability to get you to sign up for distances that you never thought you’d run,” she said with a chuckle.

Checchi never pictured herself as a runner, she added. She’s not someone who ran in high school or college, aside from what was the minimum requirement in physical education courses. She began running on a whim while in graduate school.

“When I started, I could only run a portion of the track. I would run the straights, and walk the turns,” she said. “I’ve come a long way, but definitely did not come with any natural talent at all.”

Checchi has kept on with the Golden Valley Harriers’ weekly training regimen ever since moving here four years ago. She now cites the running group as the people she often spends the most time with.

The camaraderie they have, which was also mentioned by Labelle and Sengo, is another of the motivating factors in her continued interest.

“Sometimes I tell people that it’s less about the actual running, even though that’s the key activity, but more about the wonderful social connections you make running together,” Checchi said.

For more details on Golden Valley Harriers and the races it participates in, visit

— Reach Brett Johnson at [email protected] or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett



  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .


    Suspected Ebola patient being treated at UCD Med Center

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A1

    Town hall focuses on Coordinated Care Initiative

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1

    Schools give parents tools to help kids thrive

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Need a new best friend?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    Stanford University to get $50 million to produce vaccines

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Two more cases of measles in Northern California in children

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Dartmouth bans hard liquor

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A2

    Walkers head out three times weekly

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3Comments are off for this post

    Free tax preparation service begins Monday

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

    Vote for your favorites in Readers’ Choice poll

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    No bare bottoms, thanks to CommuniCare’s Diaper Drive

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Storyteller relies on nature as his subject on Saturday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Still time to purchase tickets for DHS Cabaret

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    All voices welcome at sing-along Wednesday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Great Chefs Program will feature Mulvaney

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

    Take a photo tour of Cuba at Flyway Nights talk

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6 | Gallery

    February science fun set at Explorit

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A6 | Gallery

    See wigeons, curlews and meadowlarks at city wetlands

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8 | Gallery



    Time for bed … with Grandma

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

    Protect root zone to save trees

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Weigh quality of life, density

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Olive expert joins St. James event

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    We’re grateful for bingo proceeds

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

    A ‘new deal’ for the WPA building

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10



    Mustangs hold off UCD women

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    UCD men set new school D-I era win record

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    UCD has another tough football schedule in 2015

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Gould’s influence felt mightily in recent Super Bowls

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

    Sharks double up Ducks

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Sports briefs: Watney, Woods start slow at TPC Scottsdale

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

    Recall that first Aggie TV game, national title?

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B8 | Gallery





    ‘Song of the Sea’ is an enchanting fable

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    ‘Artist’s Connection’ launches on DCTV

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

    Gross’ paintings highlight a slice of Northern California

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12 | Gallery

    February show at YoloArts’ Gallery 625 is ‘Food for Thought’

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12 | Gallery







    Comics: Friday, January 30, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: A9