By Davis Perez
If you are a fan of running, enjoy international relations, or want to support local youth athletes, then this event is for you.
In its 18th year, Monday’s Labor Day Races, sponsored by Golden Valley Harriers, will wind their way around Davis’ bike paths and greenbelts.
Last year, there were about 1,000 runners, up 40 percent from the year prior, and even more are expected on Monday. This demonstrates a growing trend in Davis and the nation.
“I think it reflects the recent increase in popularity in running across the U.S.,” said GVH president Stephen Andrews. “General participation in running was at an all-time high in 2012, as were the number of organized races and race finishers.”
For 11 of the 18 years Golden Valley has put on this event, it has included a cultural runners exchange with Davis’ sister city of Inuyama, Japan. This year, 12 visitors are coming from Japan, and seven will participate in the races.
According to race director John Burmester, the Japanese visitors come to town to explore the local community and participate in the Labor Day Races. They stay with local host families, most provided by the GVH running group.
”It’s a great cross-cultural experience that is reflected in our Labor Day Races logo (the Japanese character for run),” Andrews explained. “The Taiko drummers get the races started every year.”
And the exchange goes both ways. In February, Davis athletes travel to Inuyama to stay with host families and participate in the Inuyama City Friendship Marathons.
“They call all running distances marathons; this one has a 1K, 3K, 5K and 10K,” Burmester said. “My 11-year-old daughter went with me this year and it was an experience of a lifetime for us.”
There is more than just a cultural benefit from this event. A main component of the Labor Day Races is “that it is almost entirely organized and put on by volunteers from our club and from local high school cross-country runners. Race registration, the course marking and setup, aid stations, and a lot of race promotion are all handled by volunteers. All of the corporate sponsor proceeds from the race go back to help support running in the community,” Andrews said.
Burmester added “the club donated more than $12,000 to various school and community running programs last year including Dixon, Woodland and Davis High School cross country programs as well as the Davis High School track program, (and) a substantial grant to Team Davis (Special Olympics) for athletes with disabilities.”
Burmester said the grants are possible because of the solid support of the race’s presenting sponsors, Whole Foods Market Davis and PG&E.
So what can a runner expect if he or she decides to run this year’s race? Both 5K and 10K races begin at 8 a.m. at the Davis Commons. Registration is $30, and runners can register at www.goldenvalleyharriers.org/labor-day-race. Children 12 and under can participate in a 1K run starting at 9:30 a.m.; the cost for that race is $3.
“Our goal is to create a fun, local, family-friendly event,” Burmester said.
After the race, a healthful breakfast will be provided by Whole Foods Market Davis.