The volunteers were up long before the sun on Saturday as preparations got underway to welcome the anticipated 600-plus participants to the Smokey Bear Run/Walk along the shores of Bass Lake.
Water was laid out at stations along the route, parking areas were manned, fire trucks and ambulances took up positions, and dozens of race organizers and volunteers worked to make sure everything would go smoothy for the 25th annual Smokey Bear.
As dawn broke across the lake, racers and supporters began to fill the staging area at Recreation Point.
Families with kids eager to be part of the big day, wheelchair racers, serious runners and power walkers, people of all ages, sizes and abilities milling about, signing in, and enjoying another beautiful fall morning at the lake.
There were T-shirts and trophies, tables with fresh food and water, and mostly there was anticipation as each group of racers prepared for the countdown to their event.
Each participant was assigned a bib with their number, and each bib was embedded with a chip to mark them as they crossed the pad at the starting line, and capture their time as they ran under the Sole 2 Soul arch and over the pads at the finish line.
At 7:30 a.m., the first race of the day got underway with the Special Events Race, and for the next several hours, all the competitors took their marks and challenged themselves to do their best.
There was a lot of excitement at the starting line.
And lots of celebrations at the finish line.
Some wanted to see just how fast they could run.
Some needed just a little encouragement as the finish line approached.
And others were absolutely determined.
Some of the little ones were not quite so sure about this whole thing.
But once they got started, there was a lot of giggling with Mom or Dad holding their hands.
Of course for some of the little ones, it was a long way to the finish line, and Moms were waiting to comfort the weary.
And Dads were there to offer the standard reward of a long distance runner, a nice cool drink of water.
At 8:15 it was time for the “grown-ups” to take to the road.
The 2-mile walk/run got underway, with some out for a stroll with friends, and others trying to surpass personal best times.
Race Chairman Sheriff John Anderson was right in the thick of things as always.
Some of the more serious runners were last up, running the 10k that started at 8:30 a.m. They were required to finish the race in under 1 hour and 10 minutes, but the many who didn’t make the deadline still accomplished what they set out to do, and that was to finish.
The Smokey Bear Run/Walk truly is a family event, where everyone can participate and enjoy a day together at the lake. None of it would be possible without the support and dedication of the folks at Sierra Tel, the Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino, Cal Fire, the CHP, the Madera County Sheriff’s Department, the sponsors and the dozens of volunteers who put so much time and effort into this event.
Front and center are The Mountain Area Runners, a non-profit group consisting of Sheriff John Anderson (2012 race chairman) Karen Guillemin of Cal Fire, Francisca Adams, USFS; Jo Ann Evans, Madera Co. Sheriff’s Office; plus Kathy Kramer, PJ Grant, Carol Fletcher, Christine Lawrence, Linda Oldfield and Eva Busto, who were the ones in the yellow shirts, “Smokey’s Crew.”
Madera Co. Search and Rescue manned the water stations, Madera Co. Sheriff Explorer’s Post 104 handled the parking, and YHS Cross Country Teams assisted with the children’s races and attended to runners at the finish line.
The Mountain Area Runners worked with Race Director Ken Takeuchi from Pro Race Group of Fresno for this race, and contracted with Sole 2 Soul for chip timing for electronic race scoring.
And, our hats are off to Kyle Guillemin who spent a very warm day as Smokey Bear, making all the kids smile, and rewarding them with ribbons as they finished their races.
Proceeds from this year’s race will go to Cal Fire and USFS Fire Prevention Programs, Madera County Search & Rescue, Madera County Sheriff Explorer’s Post 104, and the Yosemite High School Cross Country Teams.
For all the race results, click here. If you’d like to see if photographer Mark Haymond captured a shot of you or someone you were cheering for, click here. He takes great photos, and they are available for viewing and purchase on his website.