A record-breaking number of runners laced up their sneakers and rang in 2013 with a 3.1-mile race around the Montgomery Village neighborhood in Santa Rosa Tuesday morning.
The mercury registered a brisk 36 degrees as 344 runners in two waves took off from Montgomery High School for the Resolution Run 5K, hosted by the Empire Runners Club.
"It means getting a good start and feeling great about the year to come," said Diego Garcia, 13, of Healdsburg. Garcia, who runs for the Healdsburg Junior High track and cross country team, posted a time of 22:38.
The fastest time of the day was again posted by Reesey Byers, the Santa Rosa High School standout who is a junior competing for the Sacramento State University track team.
"My legs were a little tired but I just went with how I felt," he said. "It's good to be in this environment at home, having fun with it."
By the timer's watch, Byers had a ball — breaking his own course record by one second and posting a 15:10. Byers has run the fastest time four years straight.
While spectators were bundled in blankets and knit hats, runners were launched in two waves — the first for those who planned to run at an eight-minute mile clip or faster; and a second for who wanted to take it a bit slower.
A mass start had in past years caused logjams at certain points in the flat, fast course that runs down Hahman drive before veering off into the neighborhoods around Montgomery Village, prompting race organizers to ask runners to self-select their pace.
"We didn't want to to get away from the whole family atmosphere we had," said race director Val Sell, saying that parents with strollers and younger runners are still encouraged to race.
But some stroller-pushing parents were far from slow.
Dad Eric Ballatore posted a 21:42 while pushing 2-year-old Giovanni in a jogging stroller.
"He's loving it," Ballatore said of his son. "We like to stay in shape but it's a good way to start off the new year, as well."
Runners from Piner High's cross country and track teams worked in support of the event, taking athletes' numbers and providing course directions.
Tori Meredith, an Empire Runners club member who has run the race every year since the club started hosting the event more than 20 years ago, said the morning provides a place for old friends to catch up — even if they are out of breath.
"This is like homecoming," she said, as she greeted a fellow runner. "See? I only see her here every year."
New runner Lisa Ostello had a mellow night with friends on New Year's Eve so she'd be prepared for her first 5K road race.
"I'm ecstatic," she said, still flush from the run. "It's a good way to start out the new year and the day."
"This is the first one of the year and many more to come for us," she said.
Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.