Back to the Future, by Paul Berg

Imagine the freeway heading east past Farmers Lane, parallel to Hoen Avenue, across that puddle formerly known as Spring Lake, carving a big chunk off Annadel State Park as it zooms past Oakmont on the way to Sonoma. That image sounds like a terrible idea today, but that was the vision of CalTrans engineers in the early 60’s. With that plan for the freeway, the state of California purchased a large swath of empty lots extending from the end of what became Highway 12 at Farmers Lane, past Montgomery high school all the way up past Summerfield Road and beyond. In 1960 Santa Rosa had a population of 31,000 residents, mostly clustered north of College Avenue and downtown. Flash forward to today, Santa Rosa has swelled 5 fold in population, eating up the surrounding ranchland in all directions. An aerial map curiously reveals a 52 acre chunk of empty land neatly nestled in the middle of town.

JUne16Berg3“So what does this have to do with me?” you might ask, and “why is this bit of trivia on the Empire Runners blog?”.

About five years ago a group called the Southeast Greenway Project approached us with the germ of an idea about acquiring this land and turning it into a huge green space including running and cycling trails. Empire Runners was one of the early groups to see the potential of this for the community, and we’ve been donating seed money to do studies, hire consultants and assess the feasibility of the idea. A large open space surrounded by urban development rarely comes available in any city, a blank slate for to imagine what we want to make best use of this resource.

June16Berg4At our May meeting, we were given an update by 2 members of the committee on the progress to date and a few of the hurdles in the near future. As you can imagine, there are many layers of bureaucracy to cut through, from state ownership to overlapping city agencies all wanting to be involved. The dedicated volunteers of the Santa Rosa Southeast Greenway have been working tirelessly to get input from the public on what we would like to include in this project. I urge you to sign up for updates on their website and envision what a game-changer this could be for our area, and feel proud that your club is helping to move this along.


Brad’s Corner, by Brad Zanetti

“The Boys in the Boat”, by, Daniel James Brown, Penguin Books, New York, New York, 2013, pp 370.



In the past I have reviewed mostly books about runners and running, for runners and running, written by a runner or had running in the title(how slick?!). So on a great recommendation from a friend(and the Sonoma Gals Book Club) I began reading a book about rowing, specifically the nine-man crew that went to the 1936 Berlin Olympics with a quest for the Gold Medal. Now I straight up don’t know a lot about rowing and although I watch it during the Olympics I don’t follow the sport regularly. Still, I felt this book was a great choice for two main reasons:  1) It’s an Olympic year and June is Olympic month and 2) I am fascinated with the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin and the politics of the era.

Upon starting the book I kind of read over the quote that begins each chapter. As it turns out each quote or thought is by a man named George Yeoman Pocock. In chapter three his character is formulated and it turns out that Mr. Pocock is a former rower from England who is a (the) master builder of the 8 man cedar shell (boat). In fact the Pocock shell is still considered the premiere shell. Well I went back and restarted reading the quotes prior to each paragraph and found that they added much to the storyline.

In lieu of giving a detailed telling of the story (’cause why would you read it then?) let me just say this is one of the finest sport stories I have ever read. Character development was excellent and complete. You really feel like you know what makes each character tick. Each chapter covers a number of storylines and character developments and repeats them in a way that makes you part of a story, part of the character’s life – a part of history.

The historical time frame covered extends from the late 1800’s through 1943 with excellent historical perspectives throughout the storieline. The epilogue chapter covers the lives of the characters through the 21st century. The reader will get an interesting feel for the times of the early 1900’s, the development of Seattle, the depression era, the politics surrounding the Olympics (and Avery Brundage) and the politics of Hitler, a rebuilding Germany post WWI and the way Hitler snuck up on the world prior to trying to rule it.

This will happen by following the life story of Joe Rantz, one of the nine rowers on the 1936 Olympic Rowing team from the University of Washington. You will learn about his rather sad early life and how it developed his resolve. You meet his teammates, how they relate to one another as the team is formed from over a hundred young men over four years under the watchful eye and tutelage of Coach Al Ulbrickson and Master shell builder George Y. (Yoda?) Pocock.

The Boys in the Boat is incredibly well written in all ways. I was especially impressed with the historical perspective and the development of an understanding of this new sport to me, Crew. The individual and team aspect of crew parallels in many ways running and cross-country although even more linked due to the synchronous nature of rowing. The story telling of the actual races was very good and I found myself immersed in the crew racing experience much as if I was in a race myself. I don’t often give an unequivocal thumbs up but with this book I am prepared to do so. If the story alone was not enough I was definitely enamored with the G. Y. Pocock quotes that begin each chapter.

Two examples of George Pocock’s insight circa the 1930’s are prescient of the type of things I shared with my high school runners and have shared with other Empire Runners:

“ Men as fit as you, when your everyday strength is gone, can draw on a mysterious reservoir of power far greater. Then it is that you can reach for the stars. That is the way champions are made.”


“Where is the spiritual value of rowing?…The losing of self entirely to the cooperative effort of the crew as a whole.”

And in an homage to the “Runner’s High”:

“When you get the rhythm in an eight, it’s pure pleasure to be in it. It’s not hard work when the rhythm comes… that “swing” as they call it. I’ve heard men shriek out with delight when that swing came in an eight;  it’s a thing they’ll never forget as long as they live.”

My recommendation is to read this book as soon as you can. It is a wonderful read full of depth and detail, characters and history, sport and its impact. Read it NOW, before it becomes a movie.

Rating:   Excellent                     5/5 *****

An Unlikely Partnership, by Melody Karpinski

When I first sat down with my head track coaches from Montgomery and Rincon Valley Christian for our pre-season meeting and they broached the idea of combining practice, I was largely skeptical.

May16_Melody_04How would this work? Was it even legal? Could I keep track of both sets of athletes? Would I be able to remember all of their names? Would I still be able to help them achieve their goals? How was I possibly going to catch all of their splits when they ran together at invitationals?

Just the little things.

We don’t compete in the same league or in the same division. One school is public, the other private. One school is a little over 200 students, the other is just under 2,000.

The most distinguishing feature? One school has a track and the other doesn’t.

May16_Melody_05In February, we began combined practices. The kids didn’t know each other and I don’t think they were certain how they felt about the whole thing. I was acclimating to my new job as the assistant coach at Montgomery. On top of it, every day and every meet seemed wetter than the last.

At Big Cat, the wind blew a soccer goal post over and hit an athlete in the head. Some of my athletes ran their first 3200m race while the sky dumped unlimited bucketfuls of the rain everyone had been praying for.

“But it doesn’t rain in California,” complained one of my athletes during the Windsor Relays as both teams were huddling under our makeshift camp of three or four EZ-UPs vigorously strapped to the bleachers as if the apocalypse was coming. The wind howled, pole vault got canceled, but the heats went on.

May16_Melody_01When the meet got called off mid-way through the 100m after the timing tent blew over, everyone descended onto camp overjoyed. They began hi-fiving each other and delightedly gorging on the cookies I had made them promise not to eat until their races were over.

After a couple more meets of suffering together in the rain, the atmosphere at practice seemed to shift and the kids began to look forward to working out together. When practice was separate for a couple of days in March due to different meet schedules, they’d come up to me and ask why their friends from the other team weren’t there. Each invitational, the kids would warm up with each other before their events.

May16_Melody_07They’ve also teamed up to mess around, taking turns hijacking my phone and my Garmin (which is currently set to military time and commands in Italian after the latest venture). It’s also still unclear who had the best proposal for getting out of a workout (my favorites include three months of “professional chauffeuring” and sheer bribery in amounts ranging from $20 to $100) and who had the most honest food diary entry (entries included a “lame sandwich” and “burritos that weren’t as good as last night”). They have debates about who the greatest underrated distance runner of all time is (the conclusion was Rocky).

May16_Melody_06During meets, cheering emanates from our camp for athletes from both teams and each athlete’s success is celebrated with equal admiration regardless of uniform color. Intermixed prom couples are starting to pop-up. Friendly rivalries have formed. The kids are already looking forward to long trail runs in Annadel together during the summer.

The Viking Track Classic last week marked the last meet the kids would have competed against each other during the regular season. There’s a few things left unsettled though, and Friday they’ll all take the track for what we’ve affectionately dubbed the Red vs. Blue meet. Rumor has it the whole coaching staff from both schools will participate.

Post-season around the corner, the distance squads from both teams are asking me for a pool party together. All I can think of is that someone will jump off the diving board and pull a muscle the week of championships, but I’m tempted to let them have their fun anyway. They began the season as strangers and they will leave as family.

My split sheet, and my heart, are full.

Mudroom Backpacks, by Doug Murdoch

IFThe perennial problem for runners and athletes is simply the question, “What do I do with my shoes?”

You know the problem…you tie them together and sling them on your backpack and they are dangling around, or they are dirty so you don’t want to put them inside of anything…let’s face it, shoes are a pain in the ass to travel with sometimes.

Local Sonoma County entrepreneur and designer David Deioma has recognized this significant problem and created a new company called Mudroom. The backpack I tested is called the Small Quartible 18L.


Overall, this is an excellent travel backpack that provides a much needed solution for carrying your shoes. The 6” depth makes it easy to put under the seat of an airplane, or even in the small overhead of commuter jets, like CRJ’s. If I ever fly to a race, this would be the bag I take on the plane with all my critical stuff. The reason is that I want to have everything with me for my race, so even if my checked luggage is lost, I still have just what I need to get by. And it would easily hold your toiletries and other essential items.

Running Shoes


Each side of the backpack has zippers that open to hold running shoes, up to size 18 I am told. They fit in easily, and there is a stretch pocket on the inside that I was able to put two pair of socks or a pair of running shorts. And the top of the pocket is ventilated with mesh.

As a runner, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this feature. Being able to separate and carry my shoes with my other stuff is really awesome. And actually you can access the shoe pockets from the inside as well.

Laptop and ipad


I’ve never seen a backpack designed before that can hold running shoes, a full size laptop, and an ipad. David did a great job organizing this backpack and making it work.

The laptop can be put into the slot from the inside, but a really fantastic feature is the side zippered access to the laptop. The reason is that there are times when you need to cram your backpack full of stuff, and if you try to get it out from the inside, it’s difficult. With the side access, you can immediately get to it.

There is also an ipad pocket but this can also be used for other items like notebooks, books, etc.

Inside the Backpack


I was able to fully load this backpack on the inside with:

  • Running shirt
  • Running glasses and case
  • Jacket
  • Bottle of Whiskey
  • Mt. Tam map
  • Sonoma Coast map
  • Notebook
  • San Francisco map
  • Book: How Bad Do You Want It?  By Matt Fitzgerald
  • Bose ear buds
  • ipad
  • 13″ Mac Book Pro

Honestly I could have put a lot my stuff in the backpack but I thought that was a reasonable amount. I don’t normally drink whiskey, but for this product review, I thought I’d get a little wild. The wide front zippered opening makes it easy to access and organize your stuff.

Front Organizer Pocket


I appreciated how deep and side this pocket is, because I easily put my large cell phone in the front, passport, pens, as well as a USB, and phone cable.

Lower Front Zippered Pocket


This pocket was big enough for my keys, my running watch, and the charger. Since my watch is so important to me, I always like putting it in a separate pocket.



On the back of the backpack is a hole underneath the label that goes to the inside, where you can hang your hydration bladder. You have to make a choice – use a hydration bladder, or carry your laptop. It’s nice to have this feature in case you want to go hiking or biking and you can leave your laptop back at your place.

Side Pockets

The side pockets work for water bottles, energy bars, etc.

Other features include daisy chains on the front to connect carabineers or other stuff, reflective tape, an adjustable chest strap, and padded shoulder straps.

Kudos to David Deioma for recognizing the problem that runners and athletes have and coming up with a great backpack solution.

You can go see the backpacks in person at Fleet Feet Sports in Santa Rosa.

You can read about David’s company here:


Carlsbad 5000 – Short Race / Big FUN – by Dale Peterson and Larry Meredith

Brad (Zanetti) and Bobby (Rogers) were just a few feet ahead of me as I took my first steps.  Instantly I knew that something was very wrong.  My legs which had just served me so well down the Carlsbad 5000 course did not seem to be working right.  I felt almost like I had just finished a marathon instead of a 5K.  I knew I should stop but like so many other times in my life, I just couldn’t do it.  The only thing that kept me going was the thought of our hotel, a nice breakfast, the pool, hot-tub and a  micro-brewed IPA.


This was my fourth trip down to Carlsbad to run in the “World’s Fastest 5K” – so-called not due to the course but for the fact that after the several heats of age-division races, the elites put on an exhibition of speed.  They used to run on the same course as everyone else, but lately they do a couple of laps along the coast highway so everyone can get a good and really close look at them.

I was very excited to be here this time around, my training having gone very well leading up to the race.  I ran 23:01 – over twenty-seconds faster than my previous best in 2013.
This year our racing contingent consisted of Brad Zanetti, Larry Meredith, Bryan Porter and myself.  We were supported by Bev Zanetti, Bob Rogers and my sister Sandra.
Bryan Porter has been running the race annually for years now and Brad has done it now I believe seven years running.   This was Larry’s fourth Carlsbad 5000 in as many years.  There is a reason why we all keep coming back – it is FUN.
Here is Larry’s take on the race, Carlsbad and the overall experience:
“This was my fourth Carlsbad 5000 (in four years) and my slowest, by far.Editors Note: [Larry had a terrible cough]  I ran well in only one appearance, 2 years ago, but have not regretted making any of these trips.  Except for my performance in the race, this year was particularly enjoyable for many reasons.  The flight schedule to and from Santa Rosa (what a luxury to fly straight to San Diego from here!) was perfect for a long weekend vacation.  We arrived in San Diego just after noon on a Friday and did not have to return until late Monday evening.  That gave us a day-and-a-half of leisure both before and after the event.  With a seasoned brewery guide Brad and reliable designated driver Bev carrying out their essential duties, the whole weekend seemed like an organized tour.  Dale and I were along for the ride.
The hotel that we keep coming back to is just a half-mile from the beautiful Carlsbad beach, which stretches for more than two miles until it reaches the scenic little coastal town that hosts the races.  The temperature always seems perfect for a 5K, particularly for the masters men’s race that begins at 7 a.m. on Sunday.  While one year there was a stiff breeze to battle against on part of the course, this year was calm.  With the jacked up crowd in the race and along the course, it’s a great place to find out how fast you can run a 5K.  We made the mistake of arriving late to the post-race beer garden after a quick shower and breakfast back at our hotel.  The garden was packed and chaotic, with a line snaking through it to the dispensing stations.  It took 45 minutes but we collected our 2 pints of locally-brewed IPA and sauntered over to hear a very good live band play all of my favorite rock tunes from the ‘80s.  As always, that combination ends with Bryan and me groovin’ to the beat.  I’m tellin’ ya, we need some more ladies on this trip!  We then had to chug our brews so we could get back out on the course to watch some of the fastest 5K runners in the world, men and women, in their separate elite races.  For the second straight year, Bernard Legat set a masters world record for a road 5K.
Checking off local breweries is always on the agenda for Friday, Sunday and Monday.  Yes, we temper our thirst on Saturday in preparation for the race.  Since we had all of Monday on this trip we visited Balboa Park in San Diego, touring the natural history museum there.  A few minutes later we were downtown, eating great burgers at Hodad’s, a place that takes you back in time. And then we walked through the historic Gaslamp Quarter.  We nearly bought tickets to the opening day game of the baseball season but just couldn’t bring ourselves to cough up $80 each to watch the Dodgers destroy the hometown Padres.  So we went to another nearby brewery.  And a deserted Ghirardelli ice cream shop for desert.  As luck would have it, we were able to watch the NCAA men’s basketball national championship game at the airport.  The last-second game winning shot was made just in time for us to catch our flight.  What a weekend!
To those of you who think it’s not worth a weekend trip to run a 5K I say give this one a chance.  You can always take on the “All-Day 5K” which involves running each of the four 5K races held that morning.”
Carlsbad – The proto-typical “beach town” – Carlsbad is both quirky and upscale depending on your mood or pocket-book.  It is located 35 miles north of San Diego International Airport – straight up Interstate 5.
Carlsbad 5000 – the race is held the first Sunday in April in the town of Carlsbad.  Four Heats of the 5K or run the “All Day 20K” and do them all!  Youth 1 Mile races (and now adult too) are run on the previous Saturday.
Beer Garden – crowded but fun with live music for all adult entrants.
Elite Races – there is both an elite men’s and women’s race immediately following the last heat of the morning.
Flights – The best way to go is on Alaska Airlines out of Sonoma Co. to San Diego.
Airfare runs typically between approx. $110 and $250 one way depending on when you book your flight.
Car Rental – Rent a car from any of the many providers in San Diego and make the short drive up the coast to Carlsbad.
Hotel – We always stay in the West Inn about 3 miles south of downtown Carlsbad but within easy walking distance of the beach.  I give the hotel Five out of Five stars.  It is clean, well-appointed has a great breakfast, two restaurants a very nice pool and spa.  Rooms are approx. $165 – $185 per night and well worth it.
Eating – There are literally hundreds if not thousands of great places to eat in Carlsbad and the greater San Diego area.  One of our favorites and a post-race ritual is The Compass in the Carlsbad Village shopping center near downtown Carlsbad.  Great dishes ranging from high-end burgers to Cuban sandwiches, fish tacos and Macaroni and Cheese.  Fantastic beer selection as well.
Breweries – Again, there are hundreds to choose from.  From the huge Stone Brewery in Escondido to tiny Belching Beaver in Vista.  Coronado Brewing Company on Coronado Island and Ballast Point Brewing in San Diego (home of Sculpin IPA) are some favorites.

Hello Vietnam, by Doug Murdoch

Vietnam is going through a running revolution…based on the number of running clubs popping up and races being offered, thousands of Vietnamese are running recreationally, for their health and for fun.

I had the pleasure of running with the Sunday Running Club for the first time a few weeks ago, and everyone was quite enthusiastic about running, despite the fact it was evening and still in the nineties.  But I survived and we all hung out afterwards and had some coconut juice.

In the last five years multiple running clubs have sprung up across Vietnam, and numerous races as well. Races span everything from 5K’s to hard-core trail runs, like the Vietnam Victory Challenge 50K in DaLat, and the Mountain Marathon in Sapa.

Here is a full list of races.

When I first started running in the city of Ho Chi Minh in 2011, I was unable to find any running clubs, or any runners at all. And there were no regular races that I could find. And when I checked the Internet, there was a lot of discussion about how difficult it was to run in Vietnam, and specifically Ho Chi Minh, formerly known as Saigon.

I decided to create this running map of Ho Chi Minh in 2011 to help visiting runners. Ho Chi Minh can be a bit shocking for first time visitors, especially for runners, given the motorbikes, traffic, and questionable sidewalks. I’m proud to say that the map now has over 5000 views!


Doug’s running map.

Now I am the first to admit that running in Vietnam is like “urban cross country.”

You constantly have to be on the lookout for variations in the sidewalk, motorbikes, and other obstacles. You have to pay attention. You can’t just zone out because there are too many people and things that you might run into. As a runner, no one will stop for you or give you the right of way – this includes motorbikes, cars, and even other pedestrians.

But actually I think what foreigners experience is a variation of “culture shock.”

If you have never been to Asia before, just the sight of so many people, motorbikes, and cars can be overwhelming, which can lead you to believe that running is impossible.

But just like anything else, you can adapt as a runner. If you go out every day, as usual, you will soon find that the things you thought were significant before no longer bother you and you can easily run.

And of course it helps to run with a group.

In Ho Chi Minh: Sunday Running Club, Viet Runners, and Run Club.

In Hanoi: Chay 365

In DaNang: DaNang Runners

I have found that the Vietnamese running clubs are very friendly…just check their Facebook pages and show up for a scheduled run! Don’t worry about the fact you don’t speak Vietnamese…normally there is always someone who speaks some English.

If you do come to Ho Chi Minh and want to run, you can also always contact me at I commute back and forth between Vietnam and Santa Rosa for work.


Who Was Peter Norman Part 2, by Brad Zanetti

March2015Zanetti06Peter Norman was born June 15, 1942 near Melbourne, Australia. He was raised in a strong Christian family by parents that were Salvation Army missionaries. His parents were poor and growing up there wasn’t enough money to afford the gear necessary to play his favorite sport, Australian Rules Football. As a teenager Peter’s father was able to find used track spikes. Peter was elated and began his track career.

Peter’s Christian upbringing was essential in the development of the man he became. A little background on the doctrine of the Salvation Army is essential. In 1865 William Booth took his version of Christianity to the streets, the poor, the destitute. By 1878 his East London Christian Mission was noted as a volunteer army. Not liking the sound of that he penned salvation in place of volunteer and the Salvation Army was borne. The mission statement of the Salvation Army is 3 fold:

1- message is the Bible

2- ministry is motivated by the love of God

3- mission is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs without discrimination.

March2015Zanetti05Peter had developed into a fine runner, the finest in Australia prior to the 1968 Olympics. He was the top 100/200 runner in Australia but felt his best event was the 200m with a time of 20.6 at the Australian Olympic trials. However, he was not well known on the world stage and not even in the discussion for a medal. But when he arrived in Mexico City at the Estadio Olimpico Universitario, Peter ran consistently good times through to the finals. He exploded in the first heat winning with a 20.17(setting a national and short lived Olympic record). He won his quarterfinal heat in 20.44 and was second to John Carlos in the semis in 20.22. In typical Norman fashion he yelled across to Carlos, “You can have that one!” Carlos just waved him off indignantly. The final was a phenomenal race with a late surge by Peter, squeaking by Carlos at the tape in 20.06 for the Silver medal(and a national record that still stands today). Tommie Smith ‘jetted’ down the backstretch to the Gold in a new Olympic, National and World record in 19.86. John Carlos content with what he thought was a Silver shut it down a hair early and accepted the Bronze.

Prior to the Olympics there was much rhetoric and public fighting over a possible boycott of the Olympics by the black athletes. A combination of the deaths of Rev Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy and a lack of solidarity of all of the Black athletes led to them not boycotting the Olympics. This allowed each athlete to express themselves individually. The significance of Carlos and Smith display goes as follows: the gloves were for Power(Black) and Unity. The shoeless entry(stocking feet) was for poverty. The beads they wore represented lynchings(‘Strange Fruit’). Carlos entered with an unzipped jacket(against Olympic protocol) as a tribute to blue collar workers.

March2015Zanetti02Just prior to the walk up to the Olympic podium, John Carlos and Tommie Smith made Peter Norman aware of their plan. They asked him if he believed in human rights. Peter answered that he did and that he believed strongly in God. Peter said, “I will stand with you, how can I participate?” They asked him to wear the Olympic Project for Human Rights(OPHR) badge. Remembers Carlos, “ I expected to see fear in Peter’s eyes, but instead we saw love.” Norman reached for Carlos’ badge but he said, “this is mine but we will get you one.” Paul Hoffman a Harvard and Olympic crew team member offered his to Norman. Just prior to the walk in to the dais, Carlos realized he had forgotten his gloves. It was Peter who suggested that Tommie and Carlos each wear one, which they both agreed. The three men, united, walked to the dais…and history was soon to be made.

“I couldn’t see what was happening, Norman said, but I knew they had gone through with the plan when a voice sang the American anthem but then faded to nothing. The stadium went quiet; what followed was a shower of boos”. As the threesome walked off the crescendo of boos turned to vicious racial slurs; their lives forever changed and forever linked.

As you are probably aware Tommie Smith and John Carlos were stripped of their medals, kicked off of the team and sent back to the US. Their lives were ruined as they were not allowed to race again, received numerous death threats, fired from their jobs and found it difficult to get substantial jobs for decades. What you may not know is that after the Olympic medal ceremony, when asked about the Americans demonstration by reporters, Peter Norman responds, “I believe that every man is born equal and should be treated that way.” He was then reprimanded by the Australian Olympic committee, banned from racing for 2 years and finally not sent to the 1972 Olympics in Munich even though he was the 5th rated sprinter in the world in the 200m and qualified in the 100 and 200m. He was torn to shreds by the Australian press and returned to apartheid Australia not a star or hero but rather a pariah. He, too, faced a daily challenge of acceptance and any opportunity at all. Even after Australia renounced their apartheid philosophy and long after Carlos and Smith had been forgiven in the U.S. Peter Norman was still persona non grata at home and was not invited in any capacity to be part of the 2000 Olympics in Sidney. At that late date they still wanted Peter to renounce his part in the 1968 demonstration. He of course would not. In fact, Peter was invited to be part of the US Olympic group reuniting with Smith and Carlos, whereupon Michael Johnson introduced himself to Peter and said, “Peter you are my hero”. Peter said, “I didn’t know you even knew who I was. Michael responded, “Of course I know who you are”.

Over time the disruption of the status quo by the 1968 Olympic demonstration has been seen in a different light(change is slow). Nearly 4 decades later in 2005 a heroic 23’ tall sculpture of the medalist podium moment was erected at San Jose St University. Curiously, Peter Norman’s place is vacant so that visitors can stand in accord with Smith and Carlos. It was Norman’s choice to leave his spot vacant since the sculpture is in America, on the duo’s college campus. Per Peter, “ It wasn’t about me. All I did was wear a button of support. That platform is for anybody across this world to stand up for justice and equality.”

The trio have remained close throughout the years. In fact, Peter was at the unveiling of the statue and presented and introduced John Carlos. Tragically, Peter had a variety of medical and chemical issues and died of a heart attack on Oct 3, 2006. Both John and Tommie were pallbearers at his funeral and eulogized him and consider Peter’s mother their “Australian mom”. They often tell Peter’s story, their story at their speaking engagements. Peter remains a friend, a brother, a hero to them and to all who know his story. Carlos about Peter Norman) unveiling with Peter Norman introduction) was pete norman by the young turks-TYT)–lzACn0aZ8(200m final race)


2016 Ilsanjo Classic Race Report, by Eric Walker

May16Ilsanjo16_005Pounding rain fell all week leading up to the 44th annual Ilsanjo Classic races.  And rain continued to fall Sunday morning.  Not only was this good news for our local reservoirs but it was good news for trail runners who appreciate an old fashioned trail racing mud-fest.

May16Ilsanjo16_003The Ilsanjo Classic has always been positioned smack in the middle of the rainy season—and we were due for something other than the near concrete trail conditions that have persisted through the recent drought.  Runners in all three races were immediately soaked, with a strategically placed, though entirely natural, mud bog spanning much of the starting area at Howarth Park.  Concerns about the race ranged from flooding at Spring Lake, to a significant downed tree on Spring Creek trail, to fast moving water at the Lake Ilsanjo spillway, to mass attrition due to the rain pouring down in the early hours Sunday.  Turns out none of that mattered as the flooding receded, the tree was almost magically cleared by the Sonoma County Trails Council and more than 200 runners and volunteers showed up to take on the trails.

May16Ilsanjo16_001Having previewed the courses on Saturday, the race director crew expected slow times in the sloppy conditions.  Turns out, we were very wrong!  45-year old John Litzenberg lit up the trails, breaking one hour by eight seconds (59:52) and defending his 10 mile win from 2015.  He was quite literally chased over the final miles by 42-year old Todd Rose, who finished one second behind John in 59:53.  In all, 15 men broke 1 hour 10 minutes—four more than last year in much better conditions.  Eight of the 15 were 26 years old or younger, which bodes well for local trail running’s future.  Todd Bertolone ran a noteworthy race, running1:07:04, a sub-7 minute mile pace, in the slop at 53 years old.  In the women’s race, Andrea Guzman (1:17:52) outlasted Erin Kaspar (1:18:37) for her first win at The Classic.  Kerry Hanlon was first master’s woman, and third woman overall, crossing the line in an impressive 1:20:03.  No one tell Kerry that mud is supposed to be a slower running surface, as she ran the exact same time in 2015 on much firmer trails!

May16Ilsanjo16_006In the Ilsanjo Neo-Classic 4 Miler, Brandon Day held off Mike Wortman 23:17 to 23:33 for the win.  Both were comfortably below 6-minute mile pace, which is no small achievement in those conditions.  55-year old Andy Howard hammered out 6:41 miles for a 26:45 for the master’s win.  In the women’s race, Kate Papadopoulos broke 28-minutes (27:51) for a comfortable 91 second win over Celeste Berg (29:22).  Kate won the 10 miler in 2015, a race in which Celeste Berg was also second.  11-year old Sarah Skandera placed third in a very impressive 30:43, 48 seconds in front of her 10-year old sister Rebekah.  The Skandera’s are a formidable group of young runners and will bear watching for years to come.  The unstoppable Tori Meredith ran a quick 32:16 to take the women’s master’s title.

May16Ilsanjo16_007Nine Newt Scooters 10 years old and under braved the rain and mud in the 1k.  Nine year old Sarah Kam outran the rest of the Newts with a strong time of 4:16.

The race director team would like to sincerely thank all the runners who braved the conditions, as well as the volunteers who came out to work with us in cold, wet conditions.  Standing or sitting for hours in those conditions can be utterly miserable.  Without all the support at registration, the finish line, food tables and out on the course, this race could not happen.

We’ll see you back at the Ilsanjo Classic next year!


Member Interview: Vojta Ripa, by Dale Peterson

Vojta was born in the Czech Republic right after the fall of communism July 30th, 1989. When he was young he was always very active alongside his only brother and sibling Honza. They hiked almost every weekend, went bike riding with their dad, cross-country and downhill skiing etc. starting at the age of three. Vojta enrolled in gymnastics from first thru fourth grades until they moved to the U.S. with their mom. This was a fresh start for all of them.  Everything was new – language, culture, sports, environment, friends, food you name it. It was at this point that Vojta and his brother became really close.  Since they only had each other, they had to have each others back and help each other through everything. They didn’t know much English at all when Vojta came to America at the age of ten and his brother Honza was eight. Since Czech was the only language they knew it was tough to communicate with others.



Vojta didn’t do much actual running per se’ until he came to the U.S. where his first encounter was a timed run in fourth grade PE class while living in Lake Tahoe. Vojta was surprised to find himself in first place as he had never ran much before but he came to like it. It was a great way to fit in at school. Seventh grade was the first time Vojta ran as a member of an actual track team for Healdsburg Junior High. He started out as a sprinter, but the next year he wanted to challenge himself with longer distances and decided to run the 800 and 1600. Distance was tougher for Vojta given he had asthma ever since he was small child, but he found that the more he ran, the stronger his lungs became until it got to the point where he “lost” his asthma completely. Vojta was always a member of his various school’s track and cross-country programs until he graduated from Stanislaus State.  He got more and more into it every year. Even now he keeps it up because it was something he grew up with and it is still something he enjoys.  Vojta says there are a million more reasons why he likes to run.

You are involved in a lot of activities besides running –  mountain biking, kayaking, obstacle courses just to name a few.  How do you fit it all in?

Vojta: I like sports in general. I feel activities are a key part in life, whether its competitiveness, bonding/teamwork, or just getting and staying in shape and maintaining good health. Beside the previous activities I’ve mentioned, I like to try anything; but repeatedly I like mountain and roadbiking for cross training, I’ve done a few short tri’s, which are tougher for me since my swimming isn’t great, weighing me down heavily. I have even tried the Battle Frog race at Lake Sonoma which was a combination of obstacles, muddy trails and a long run over seven miles long. It was surprisingly challenging due to the emphasis on upper body strength which most of us runners lack but it was still a lot of fun!

Were you always a runner or did you experiment with other sports?

Vojta: Between fifth grade and high school I experimented with other sports, until I found running. Sports I participated in include: football, baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, karate, and wrestling.


You ran some impressive times in the 800 and 1500 when at Stanislaus, consistently below two minutes in the former and in the low fours in the latter.  Do you feel that you are natural middle-distance runner?  Why or why not?

Vojta: I started running very well my second year at the JC under coach Whitney and Pat Ryan. My marks got down to 1:55 in the 800m and 4:02 which is my current PR in the 1500m. I was in very great shape to run much faster in both events at CSU Stanislaus but come to racing I only bettered my 800m by 1 second. I feel like at the time those events were the right ones for me. I tried experimenting with the 4×4 and ran a few 49 splits, and I tried the 5k and ran in the low 16 minute range, but neither compare to my performaces in the 800m and 1500m events; Based on that I feel like I BECAME and maybe still am a natural middle distance runner. I feel that my body type shows and mimics a middle distance runners. Being a little bit more stocky than long distance runners but not to the point of most sprinters.

If you could have one race back – to run it again – what would you do differently and why?

Vojta: There are two important races that I’ve constantly looked back on. Both were in the 800m. The first was at the JC level in the NOR CAL finals. There were 8 of us in the race but only 4 made it to the state meet. I was running the race of my life and was up there with the leaders. We only had 200m to go which is usually my strongest part of the race. Unfortunately I got boxed in and then one guy cut a bunch of people off which made a few of us slowdown and lose our momentum. I tried fighting back, but finished in 5th place, missing the state meet by 1 second. If I had known and had a chance to do it all over again I would swing to the outside earlier which would have gave me a clearer path to strike with 200m left, make it to the state meet and probably PR.

The other race was the NCAA division 2 conference trials in the 800m where they postponed our race 15 minutes or so. Instead of staying warm and loose I decided to just sit there conserving energy. This may have been the cause which resulted in a total breakdown race for me where I had no energy in the most critical race of the season, fell apart and felt completely out of it most of the race. I should have stayed warm and sharp instead.

What are some of you short term goals?  What are you working on now and how have you adjusted your workouts to achieve them?

Vojta: Trying to run post-collegiately is definitely not easy. Finding motivation is sometimes tough to start, but after getting going it’s also hard to stop. Short term goals are staying injury free and getting in shape for the Boston Marathon and running a good race at Annadel Half Marathon. (which may be over by the time this is published).

Right now I’m just working on building up my millage and getting used to maintaining a fast pace for a longer period of time. To achieve this I do longer runs at a faster pace or longer interval training instead of short sprints. Endurance runs are something you can keep increasing so I’m finding myself pushing boundaries and testing myself on long runs in terms of increasing my distance, lately hitting 100 miles per week.

What are some of your long term goals?  What do you hope to achieve over the next decade and how do you hope to do so?

Vojta: I haven’t really planned my long term goals too much. I don’t plan ahead too much which may be a bad thing, but I like to plan maybe a few months in advance if something comes along. Running Boston was my big goal since last spring and I’m making that happen in just a few weeks. PRing in various events is always on my mind and trying out new races at various locations is fun for me. I would like to keep running as long as I can because its so good for you healthwise, and a great way to release stress and unwind. Competitive running makes this easier to do in my opinion.


Most distance runners revere the great Czech Olympian Emil Zatopek – who inspires you and why?

Vojta: Specifically, Galen Rupp has been very impressive to watch, but its anyone who keeps pushing the boundaries and working hard day in, day out. One example is Sarah Hallas who is my roommate who never seems to stop, at age 35. With a 2 year old, full time job and a fiancé, she runs as much as I do and works out 2 to 3 times a day during the week, and wins marathons on the weekends.

On the lighter side – how do you relax and unwind after a hard run, race or workout?

Vojta: Beer, food and sleep are always nice. I like going out and playing golf, going to the beach and just being outside is relaxing to me. I also like watching sporting events on TV, hang out with friends or doing numerous things on my computer, like looking at new races to run.

What is your favorite track workout?  Road workout?  Cross-Training activity?

Vojta: Being a middle distance runner I always fall back on track workouts. I start with what I know and try to switch it up in different ways. I usually fall back on 400m repeats, various rest times, speeds and quantities.

I haven’t done very many road workouts, increasing my pace every mile is what I usually find myself doing on the roads.

As for cross training I would say road biking or mountain biking.

Sports nutrition advocates run the gamut from Vegan to Paleo and everything in between.  What is your stance / advice?

Vojta: Eating healthy is definitely important but I don’t always find myself doing that. I usually try to get my protein in after workouts and get my carbs in before and during long runs. To get my fruits and veggies in I usually make salads and protein smoothies which are great. Different things work for different people. I’m sure my diet could use improvements but I don’t find myself super strict with it. I believe getting in a good amount of food to recover your body is important and starving yourself to lose weight is very unhealthy and I against that. If your exercise especially a lot such as myself you need to refuel, and yes you can afford to eat whatever you want. If I was running Pro or close to it I think I would pay more attention to my nutrition, but I’m happy were I’m at.

Lastly – is there some question you wished I had asked, or something more you would like to share?

Vojta: Maybe a good question most runners get asked is: why do you run?

There is a long list of why I run but one big reason for the last six or so years has been my brother Honza.

As mentioned in my bio, Honza and I have been very close being the only siblings, and we competed against each other in everything.  Even though he wasn’t as dedicated to running as I was, he could kill me on the golf course any day of the wee.  Just after he graduated from High School, he got into a terrible and life-changing river diving accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down.  This affected not only him but everyone around him, especially me.  Now we go golfing together on the weekends because that’s what he loved to do before the accident.  I feel his accident brought me closer to running for a number of reasons.  It gives me and out/release for my emotions, but also I feel I have to have fun for the both of us.  It made me realize that in the blink of an eye life can change and so I need to keep enjoying what I like to do while I can, and make it count.

Training the Brain, by Paul Berg

April16Berg1Maybe you’ve heard the ads targeting our over-stimulated and aging population: “Brain fitness to challenge memory and attention with scientific brain games. Used by over 70 million people”. A quick Google search will reveal dozens of companies claiming to improve memory through brain fitness schemes. Most of these programs approach the problem by devising brainteasers, crosswords, jigsaw puzzles or pattern-recognition games to “exercise” the brain as if it were some ordinary muscle. By analyzing your answers and/or reaction times, the algorithms can make the tests incrementally more challenging, theoretically improving brain fitness.

As I’ve reached the age where I’ve begun to worry about forgetfulness and lack of sharpness, I was intrigued by a study last week in Neurology (“the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology”). The study followed about 900 older people over the course of twenty years. The researchers judged how much exercise the people were getting, and then over the course of more than a decade, they judged their mental capabilities using memory and logic tests and MRIs.

At the end, the study showed people who intensely exercised had brains that looked and performed 10 years younger than their peers. Those people were both quicker at figuring things out and had better memories. The researchers note that it wasn’t just any exercise- the benefit came for the people who got regular moderate to intense exercise, like running or aerobics.

Exercise affects the brain on multiple fronts. It increases heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain. It also aids the bodily release of a plethora of hormones, all of which participate in aiding and providing a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells.


How often have you been given the advice “sleep on it” when facing a big decision?  A better idea may be to “run on it”, as there’s nothing like a good run to clear the mind and allow you to focus your thoughts. Whenever I’ve faced a big business decision or creative challenge, if I’m able to take an hour to clear my head on a moderate trail run, the decision is often waiting for me at the end.

If you’ve been reading the Empire Runners blog for long, you know that runners are smart people, and now you have the evidence to prove it! Run happy, run smart.


Located in beautiful Sonoma County, California.


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