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It was a great day to run, and a total of 56 runners (46 men and 10 women) showed up to participate in the 39th Annual Arroyo Seco Freako Microthon (Charles Voge Memorial Run) on April 1, 2013. Weather for this year's race was mostly cloudy, with racetime temperature less than 65 degrees.
For this year's race, the course was modified to avoid the trail alongside JPL's east fence, which will be closed temporarily during construction of JPL's new parking garage. The length of the modified course was a shade under 3.3 miles. Since this is less than 0.1 mile shorter than the 2008-2012 course, finish times for last year and this year should be very comparable.
Ernie Chuang led all runners in 20:48, a full minute ahead of second-place finisher Nick Parazoo, and nearly three minutes faster than Ernie's own time in last year's race. Feiming Morgan was the fastest woman in 27:02, less than a minute ahead of runnerup Serina Diniega, and exactly a minute faster than Feiming's own time from two years ago.
Special congratulations go to the top finishers, but the real story for this year's race was the sheer number of participants. We don't have records for every year, but it's likely that the last time that the Freako had more than 56 participants was for the 1986 race. That's 27 years ago! And the Lab had more employees then, and the running boom was in full swing. So congratulations to the whole field of runners this year for setting a recent record for participation!
With so many participants this year, most of the runners had a chance to experience running with or nearby other runners throughout the entire race. Sometimes it can be pretty lonely running in a spread-out field, but that wasn't the case this year. More than half of this year's 56 runners finished within 4 seconds of their nearest competitor (ahead or behind). Not only did that create some exciting finishes, it also gave many runners extra incentive to keep up their pace throughout the entire race. We hope to have more well-attended races like this one in the future.
With so many runners and many close finishes, it was important to have a good crew of volunteers at the finish line. The finish crew accurately recorded finish times for all 54 runners who crossed the finish line, and we have good time estimates for two other runners who stopped short in the parking lot because they had to get back to JPL for a 1:00 meeting.
Race director Sam Dolinar designed the new course and marked it with streamers and cones. But then he ran in the race and left the rest of the work at the start/finish to the capable crew of volunteer helpers. Kelly Perry directed runners toward the new section of the route near the beginning, and after the race she walked the course in reverse with her dog Rudy and retrieved streamers and cones. Melora Larson and Tushar Thrivikraman handled the pre-race sign-ins and collection of waivers from those who hadn't already submitted them. At the finish, Tushar called out finish times and Melora photographed the finishers. Tushar and Melora both wrote down finish times, redundantly in case they might miss some during the busiest periods, but in this race both lists of finish times were 100% complete and accurate. Leon Maldonado and Anne Vyhnalek teamed up to perform the equally important job of recording runners' names corresponding to each finish time. Leon handed out consecutively numbered finish cards in the order of finish, Anne collected them after making sure that runners wrote their names on them, and together they ensured that all cards and finishers were accounted for. Melissa Soriano provided the ultimate non-real-time electronic backup system for preserving both finish times and runner identities, by recording continuous iPhone video of runners as they approached the finish line. Melissa's video and Melora's photos (together with fuzzier recollections from the runners) enabled us to make accurate projected finish time estimates for the two runners who didn't come to the finish line. All in all, it was a top-notch performance by a top-notch start/finish crew, in a race where the huge turnout could have easily overwhelmed a lesser crew. Thanks, and bravo!
Pictures from the start and the finish are posted. Video snippets will be posted soon too.
|Overall Place||Gender/Place||Finish Time||Name of Runner|
|1||M/1||20:48||Chung-Lun (Ernie) Chuang|
NOTE: The 52 runners who completed the entire 3.3-mile course are listed ahead of the 4 runners who covered shorter portions of it.
*Laura Jones and William Wilson stopped running at the Hahamongna parking lot (~0.1 mile short of the official finish), returning to JPL in time for a meeting. Their projected times, if they had finished, were ~31:30, because they placed between #41 Bob Thurstans (31:24) and #42 Paul Stella (31:37) at the time they stopped.
**Gordon Campbell and Kathy O'Hara pre-planned to walk most of the course. They elected to take a shortcut of ~0.5 mile at the beginning, directly to the upper level of Hahamongna, so they wouldn't keep the finish officials waiting too long for them to return. Then they completed the rest of the course and got official finish times at the finish line.