7:20 AM 23 May 2009 @ Sierra Madre, California (The 2nd Oldest Trail Race in the USA)
Last September 2008, I had a chance to run at the Mt Wilson Trail from Sierra Madre up to its peak and back to where we started with my son, John and then for the second time, with John, Jovelle, & Bryan. It was a memorable experience as it gave a challenge to all of us. Through this experience running along this trail, I found out that there is a yearly trail race event every month of May.
Actually, I’ve recalled this event when I was trying to browse for a trail race where I could register and run while I am here in California since last month. Due to its proximity to the Los Angeles Marathon’s race day, I opted not to register in this race and tried to look for another ultra trail race where I could join after the marathon. Finally, I thought of planning to go to Sierra Made for me to observe the race.
This morning, together with my son, John, we went to Sierra Madre to witness the start and finish of the 43rd Mt Wilson Trail Race. A few seconds before the race started, I was already on the sidelines taking pictures to the runners. At exactly 7:20 AM, as scheduled, the race started after a brief ceremony and briefing to the runners. After ten minutes, the race for the kids started and it was finished before the trail runners arrived. This is what I like with the races here, they start promptly on the scheduled start time of the race.
The Mt Wilson Trail Race started at the commercial center of Sierra Madre with the participation of 328 runners. It was a small race but the whole community was involved in the event. The youngest runner is a 10-year old boy and the oldest is 71 years old. The race is one of the attractions of Sierra Madre and most of the volunteers are senior citizens living in the area. It is a very organized race with the appropriate and adequate water stations along the trail. There were lots of food—fresh fruits, bread, pretzels and sports drinks at the finish area which were distributed by the volunteers to each finisher. The race is a 4.3 mile going up to the Orchard Place at Mt Wilson and another 4.3 miles in going down towards the Finish Line. Last year’s 1st place finish time was 1:01:53 hours.
I waited for the top 3 runners to arrive and I could see how strong the runners are. I observed that these top runners were using ordinary running shoes and nobody among these tops runners were using those sophisticated trail shoes. They are just being practical because they are running on loose soil, rocks, and small rocks and most of all, there was no rain.
I was also impressed how the children could run with or without their parent’s assistance during the kid’s race. Each of these kids really enjoyed crossing the tape at the finish line and I observed some of them would return on the road and experience crossing the tape for another round. These kids ran a distance of less than one mile. Very athletic and strong kids!
I had also a chance to inspect and observe the technical people at the finish line. The Emcee (a lady) kept on updating the status of the race from start up to the finish and I guess, she did not stop talking up to the awarding ceremony. The Emcee would tell to the crowd where the first/second/third runners and also the first lady runner are located along the route at a certain time. She gives the update every five minutes! There were no entertainers or singers during the event! I have also a chance to inspect the timing and digital clock devices. I observed that there were only 3 people involved in the timing system—one is operating a laptop computer and the other two guys were operating the digital clocks and the RFID system by ChronoTrack by checking these equipment if they are working. I suspect that these two guys are Filipinos but I did not dare to talk to them. I found out later that these people belong to one of the biggest road racing event companies in the USA/California. By observing how the race was going on, I was able to get some ideas which I think our Race Organizers/Race Directors in the Philippines should know and be able to apply in order to raise the quality of our road races. I would personally suggest to these Race Organizers in Metro Manila to spend some time to go abroad and observe how races in other countries are managed. The race results were posted on the website of the Race Event Organizer after 3 Hours reckoned from the time the race started.
The first runner, James Timphony, who happens to be the defending champion, on the said race arrived at the finish line with a time of 1:00:35 hours and he was able to improve his time last year by 1:18 minutes. He is 21 years old. The second runner arrived after 2 minutes and he is 35 years old. After almost ten runners had arrived at the finish line, my son and I left Sierra Madre for another appointment for the day. (Note: Because of the D-Tags tied on the shoes of each runner, the finishers were not wearing “strings/straws” or anything that would prove that they reached the turn-around point of the race!!!)
I have the impression that the race organizer have not offered any cash prizes for the winners. Each of the finishers receives a certificate and the Champions in the overall male and female categories are the only ones being given with trophies.
(Note: For more information and details about the race and the City of Sierra Madre, please “google” Mt Wilson Trail Race)