All posts by Paul Berg

Paul is a photographer, runner and farmer based in Sebastopol CA.

Student Grant Fund Awardees 2017

The Empire Runners have a long-standing commitment to providing scholarships to deserving student athletes of Sonoma County making the transition from high school to college. Made possible by dues and contributions from our members, we are giving our 4 recipients a total of $5000 in scholarship awards this year. All club members should be proud of the part they play in this most wonderful of traditions through generous donations.

These four student-athletes will be formally introduced and awarded their scholarship checks at the Kenwood Footrace on July 4th. Please join us in congratulating these outstanding young members of our running community.

Our first recipient comes from a large family of Empire Runners. He began his athletic career as a varsity soccer player at Windsor High. With the changing of the boys soccer season to the spring, the Fall 2016 became open to explore cross country, and through determination and hard work he made varsity his very first year. As a first year runner, his coach was very impressed with his positive attitude and hard work.

To just discuss this athlete’s athletic accomplishments would be a disservice to his academic career. This scholarship student is not only a 4.5+ GPA but also graduated #1 in his class and was the Salutatorian at Windsor HS. His teachers speak of him in glowing terms not just because of his GPA but rather the impact he has in the classroom, bringing the level up for his fellow students. Our first recipient will be continuing his studies at UC Irvine and continuing his running in intramurals and we are looking forward to him coming home and running more Empire Runner events.

Please join us in recognizing this future Anteater, from Windsor High School: Dylan Moberly

 

Our next recipient also began his running career later after playing soccer and basketball his first 2 years of high school, finding his way to cross country and track his junior year. In his first year of cross country his impact was evident as he was voted most inspirational and accompanied his teammate who had qualified for the State XC Championships in Fresno. He has been an outstanding track and field athlete for Rincon Valley Christian running the 400, 800, 1600, triple jump and discus. His true passion is the pole vault where in just 2 years he has already cleared 12’9” and qualified for the NCS Meet of Champions. He has a PR of 18:00 on the Spring Lake Course which he then matched on a more difficult course at the NCS XC Championships.

This fine multi talented athlete has also had a strong and varied scholastic career, carrying a 3.75 GPA and excelling in music and piano. What impressed the committee the most was his thought that the influence of cross country has made him a better student. In his own words, “by making running a lifestyle, running 5 miles will not phase the individual. When something difficult becomes familiar, then other concepts become easier. Therefore, after running 5 miles, a test or paper no longer appeared difficult”.

This talented scholarship athlete will be continuing his studies and furthering his athletic career at SRJC. Coach Wellman is looking forward to this XC and multi-talented track and field athlete staying local and perhaps developing his decathlon skills.

We welcome this new Bear Cub, from Rincon Valley Christian HS: Nicholas Dolan

 

Our third scholarship recipient is the classic story of a runner with no experience who joins the XC team mostly for its social aspects, gets comfortable, works hard, sets goals… did we say works hard? Then she finally achieves her goal to run Varsity and has her best 2 races of her life at NBL, then NCS. Through her 4 years with the XC and track families at Santa Rosa High it wasn’t all just a meteoric rise but rather peaks and valleys, failures and achievements. But overall it looks like this classic story is just the first part of a multi-part sojourn with the next sequel being able to run at her chosen university.

From a 9 minute miler in her first XC race to a PR of 20:39 at NBL her senior season, she followed with the same time at NCS on a notoriously harder course. Her best team finish ever fulfilled her goals for XC and with this new found strength led her to success on the track.

Yet metrics alone fail in comparison to her impact on team dynamics, her hard work, toughness and respect she both earns and gives.

An excellent student with a GPA above 4.4 in a dedicated all honors and Art Quest curriculum, this recipient also filled her spare time with volunteering at a variety of events including a 6 year commitment at the Sonoma County Animal Shelter.

With a plan to direct her college career at Scripps University in the area of literature and writing with a goal of becoming an author, our third scholarship recipient can very well write her own sequel to this memorable story.

We’re pleased to recognize this former Panther and new Athena, from Santa Rosa HS: Samantha Baker

 

Our final scholarship recipient ran with the SR Express as a middle schooler but began his high school athletics on the football field. When he was recruited for the track team his running began in earnest. Natural ability led him to perform at an all-league level this first track year and continued well through junior year in XC and had him qualify to NCS. But that was not enough for this talented runner; his habit of setting “strong” goals drove him to improve his summer training regimen with the goal qualifying to State. He was a top area XC runner this last season with a PR of 15:32 (34th AT) on the SLC. A 9th place at NCS qualified him to State and his 11th place finish in his very first time on the difficult 5K Woodward Park course was evidence of his talent and commitment. It was more of the same in track with excellent times of 4:29 and 9:32 in the 1600 and 3200 respectively and a qualification to the NCS Meet of Champions. He was All Empire 1st Team in XC and Track.

Through all of this, our fine student athlete maintained a 3.6 GPA and worked at Fleet Feet as a shoe fitter. His outgoing nature, shoe knowledge and social ease makes him a top seller. His small team at Rincon Valley Christian often worked out with a combined group of Montgomery HS runners, to the benefit for all involved. He also volunteered regularly with Church events.

Commitment, strong goal setting and the determination to achieve those goals make this scholarship recipient attractive to a number of collegiate coaches. Those of us who follow College XC and Track will keep an eye out for him at Master’s University in Santa Clarita.

From Rincon Valley Christian HS we are pleased to present: Wes Methum

Fun in the Sun

Aug16Berg01The second annual Empire Runners Member Appreciation picnic was held on Sunday, August 28 at Morton’s Warm Springs resort. This event is the brain-child of Peter Kirk as a way to get members together in a social environment, including families and friends, to celebrate our friendship and do something other than run. In that vein, there was softball, bocce, cornhole and mystery games organized by Tori Meredith. We were happy to see several families new to the club, brave souls who figured it was a good time to meet fellow runners.

In keeping with the spirit of member appreciation, this is no BYO potluck affair, but fully catered and carefree, with appetizers and salads by the famous Tag’s deli from Novato (long-time club member and race director Al Tagliaferri), and grilled burgers and sausages cooked up by Peter’s team of volunteers.

Since every picture tells a story, here are a few from the festivities….

 

 

‘Tis the Season by Paul Berg

No, don’t worry I’m not going to start celebrating Christmas at Labor Day, or bring out the carols before Thanksgiving, but the date on the calendar that I get most worked up for is upon us: Cross Country season. The transition of summer to fall is on display as we eat some hot dust at our home opener and Garin Park in September, maybe some mud to slosh through by the time we hit China camp at Halloween, to a crisp morning in Golden Gate Park in November. Friendly rivalries emerge anew each year, age-group teams reconfigure as some of us get older, while others manage to stay ageless.

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Your club has once again made a big commitment to subsidizing entry fees and uniforms, making it possible for nearly 100 runners to compete wearing the feared Empire Runner singlet. Carpools at an ungodly weekend hour serve to strengthen our resolve to give it our all and cheer on our teammates. Foggy memories of glory days fade as we toe the starting line, no matter how fast or fit we are today, the adrenaline kicks in as the gun goes off. Even if you’re not running for the Empire Runners team this year, I encourage you to search out a local race, maybe a high school or JC meet at Spring Lake, and come out and cheer the past and future heroes of our sport.

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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 http://www.southeastgreenway.org/ and envision what a game-changer this could be for our area, and feel proud that your club is helping to move this along.

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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.

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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.

Source: http://www.neurology.org/content/early/2016/03/23/WNL.0000000000002582.short

Running S.M.A.R.T.

It must be January. I just logged on to reserve an evening slot at my TRX gym for tomorrow night, and the dreaded “wait list” message popped up. Most of the year there’s enough space for everyone to get into their preferred class, but January brings out the New Years Resolution folks with good intentions. I won’t be petty enough to say aloud “they won’t last long”, but resolutions are hard, and easily broken.

My favorite article on the ER blog this month is Mike Wortman’s article on running S.M.A.R.T., where he breaks down those letters to lead us on the path to successful running goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based. It’s a great formula for sticking to your resolutions, especially when added to the ER secret weapon: training partners. When you’ve articulated your goals to the runners that you normally train with, motivation and commitment become that much easier. So make your SMART resolutions, wear them on your sleeve, and get out there and soar!

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So I’ve done it again. Depending on your perspective, I’ve been elected, drafted or sentenced to being club president for another year. Fortunately, we have continuity and enthusiasm on the Board of Directors, with Tanya Narath and Luis Rosales joining Karen Frindell-Tuescher, Nuvit Salz and Chris Mason, with Peter Kirk replacing long-serving Bill Browne. Thanks to some stalwart and dedicated volunteers we all have a great club to support and enjoy. Run Happy!

Jingle Your Bells…..Run, Dinner, and Meeting – Dec 17th

Everyone gets very busy this time of year, so we’ve decided to combine two December events into one, a mash-up of sorts, with the Jingle Bell run potluck combined with the annual membership meeting and Board election.

Located in the cozy dining room in the “Who-ville” complex across from Whole Foods on Yulupa, we will be hosted by Andrea Guzman and her chef extraordinaire husband Arturo.

This is a family-friendly event, a great opportunity to bring your non-runner partner and/or kids to show them how much fun we can have.

Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015
Location: Yulupa Co-Housing Common House
1350A Yulupa Avenue, Santa Rosa CA 95405

5:30 Jingle Bell Run (45 min) Bring your bells!

6:30 Socialize

6:45 Dinner

7:30 Club meeting and election of Board of Directors

8:00 Dessert

9:00 Bedtime

Chef Arturo Guzman, currently with St. Francis Winery, will prepare the main course.

If staying for dinner, please email an RSVP to Andrea (andreatherunner@gmail.com) and tell her who is coming. RSVP no later than Monday, December 14. Bring food and beverages to share.

 

Going out with a Bang, by Paul Berg

With the time change after summer, the kids back in school and the holidays fast approaching, life seems to reach peak velocity. And so it goes with the last two months of 2015 for the Empire Runners.

The XC season is coming to a head, with record participation and several close division races. With one more regular race on Nov 15 at Carmichael, November 22 brings us the PA championships in Golden Gate Park. Always a very competitive field, the excitement continues, as we’re fortunate to have the USATF Team Nationals in San Francisco this year on December 12. Even if you’re not racing, it’s worth coming out for the day to cheer your teammates and see some of the best adult runners in the country.

Not to be outdone, the Empire Runners club hosts several races in the next few months. My favorite antidote to Thanksgiving is the McGuire’s Breakfast run on November 29, a low-key (but hilly 10k) members-only event to help you re-enter the real world after the holiday. In mid-December we’ll be having our annual Jingle Bell run and potluck dinner. This is a great event to include your kids and/or non-running partner, as we walk and jog a few miles trying to sing on key, and then celebrate with a great meal. Back-to-back are two of our most popular races, the Last 10k on Dec 19, and the Resolution Run on January 1.

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Not to be forgotten, we have some very important club member business, with elections for the new Board of Directors on December 17. You can vote online or by proxy ballot, or in person at the club meeting. This is direct democracy; help choose your representatives to assure that your club continues to prosper.

Last but not least, just as you’re thinking, “how can I get involved?” we ‘re looking for a party person to lead the organization of the annual Member Appreciation dinner on February 6. This is a fun event to organize, as it can be broken down into manageable chunks to delegate to eager volunteers. We need to find someone in the next two weeks to get rolling, so contact me at president@empirerunners.org for details. Get involved; it’s YOUR club!

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Community, by Paul Berg

If you’ve been around this club for very long, you’ve probably realized that some of the most memorable moments aren’t when we’re actually running. Chatting in the drizzle on a wintry Sunday morning, joking in the carpool as you head off to a XC race, sipping a cold one on a warm Thursday evening, cooling down after a track workout, catching up over coffee at Aromas on a leisurely Saturday, these are the times when we get to know each other in a lasting way.

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A few weeks ago about 120 of our members and families enjoyed a perfect Sonoma Saturday at Morton’s Hot Springs resort. The brainchild of long-time running aficionado Peter Kirk, the idea was to get together and eat some food, play some games and celebrate our supportive community. The inimitable Tag’s deli provided tasty snacks, salads and burgers; several people noted that they appreciated the rare occasion when they could just show up and not have to bring a potluck item.

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Tori Meredith, fresh back from her weeklong stint at PE teachers’ camp, coaxed volunteers to perform various odd games of skill  (or games of various odd skills?). All sorts of objects were hurled through the air as we exhibited our rusty talents at softball, Frisbee, volleyball and bocce. Families with kids were free to come and go to the warm spring-fed pools, and several newbie members were introduced around the picnic tables.

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I got talking to a nice woman and her kids from Petaluma who’d joined the club at the Resolution Run but didn’t get much chance to run in Santa Rosa, and was wondering if there anyone there who could show her the Annadel Loop course. I moseyed us on over to a chatting group that included Shirley Fee, and soon a running date was arranged for early the next morning.

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Your club funded the expenses, volunteers made it happen, and members new and old had a day to remember. That’s how we run. Supportive and competitive. Hard-working and fun. In it together. This is our tribe.

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Got Hills? It’s XC Season, by Paul Berg

At the July 23 club meeting, the Board of Directors voted to increase financial support for the upcoming Cross-Country season to the tune of $6,000, an increase of over $2,000 from last year. The Empire Runners will now pay race entry fees for any member to participate in up to seven races in the upcoming fall season, regardless of whether the race is designated as a team race by your age-group team. There is no minimum number of races you must run in the season, and the club will provide the new stylish singlet to any member who participates. Adding extra excitement to this 2015 season is the fact that the National Championships will be held on our home turf, Golden Gate Park, on December 12. The club will also pay entry fees for approx. 60 ER members to participate in this national event.

USATF PA XC Finals at Golden Gate Park, Nov 16 2014. To see all the photos, go to the Empire Shutterfly page, https://empirerunnersclubphotos.shutterfly.com
USATF PA XC Finals at Golden Gate Park, Nov 16 2014. To see all the photos, go to the Empire Shutterfly page, https://empirerunnersclubphotos.shutterfly.com

Regardless of you age and ability, racing XC is all about participation. The camaraderie of meeting up for the carpool on race day, warming up with your teammates, strategizing the race and supporting each other is what it’s all about. Seeing a sea of ER singlets powering up a hill in a blur of runners is a sight to behold.

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If you’ve never run XC or have dropped out the past few years, I encourage you to go to http://www.empirerunners.org/crosscountry and check out the definitive and thorough guide that John Harmon has prepared. You won’t regret it.

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