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On a suitably cool, overcast Saturday morning, about 500 people bolted from the Human Race’s starting line on Sonoma Avenue, intent on romping through Howarth and Spring Lake parks in as little time as possible.

They were well away when a laid back multitude, about 7,000 strong, strolled beneath the race’s balloon arch in front of Herbert Slater Middle School, bent on enjoying the 34th annual edition of Volunteer Center of Sonoma County-sponsored event, a fusion of footrace, parade, party and fundraising extravaganza.

Carrying their own balloons, pushing strollers, walking dogs and in one case riding in a red Radio Flyer wagon, the walkers were in no semblance of a hurry as they passed a radio announcer’s booth and a PG&E bucket truck that lifted a photographer high overhead.

About a half-block away, the fittest of the “timed runners” were already zipping across the finish line, some in all-out sprints as a red digital clock ticked off the minutes and seconds.

“I like to run,” said perspiring Gabe Tucker, 12, of Santa Rosa, just after finishing his fourth Human Race.

Tucker got to the race scene with his mother at 6:45 a.m., more than an hour before the 8 a.m. start, and secured a starting position near the front of the pack. He was intent, he said, on breaking his own personal record with a sub-14 minute run on the 3K course.

Tucker did it in 12:28, placing a respectable 12th out of 95 timed contestants on the short course.

“A lot of fun,” he said, sipping water from a plastic cup.

Emma Mott, 10, crossed the finish line two seconds ahead of her father, Troy. “She beat me,” he said. “I’ve got to get in better shape.”

Robert McFarland ran with a GoPro camera strapped to his chest and his beagle, named Baylee, leashed to his waist. “She pulls me along,” he said. “If I’d just had wheels I’d go twice as fast.”

Shanna McFarland, his daughter, clocked 16:36 in the 3K, one second ahead of her friend, Emma Frank, and trailed by her sister, Tiffany, 9, at 23:34.

Mason Ingersoll, 8, worked up an appetite running the short course in an unofficial 16:40, beating his older brother, Carter, by two minutes.

Mason’s first post-race repast was a muffin, a bear claw and chocolate milk. Then he downed pancakes and sausages in the breakfast area. “Really good,” the freckle-faced redhead said.

The Greyhound Friends for Life team, representing a greyhound rescue organization, had 29 human walkers and 23 dogs, all but two of them greyhounds. Turns out it’s not hard to keep up with a former racing dog.

“They are 35 mile-per-hour couch potatoes,” said Margaret Lynch of Sebastopol, referring to the breed’s top speed and affinity for napping. “I’ve never seen a dog that likes to sleep as much as greyhounds,” she said.

Her pooch, Flynn, is a white-haired giant among greyhounds, weighing 100 pounds.

In terms of records, Eli Rosen-Duran, 17, of Petaluma zipped through the Howarth Park short course in 9:37, five seconds ahead of the next runner.

Rylee Bowen, 15, of Santa Rosa posted the fastest time for a female at 9:59 over the 3K course. In November, Bowen, a freshman at Sonoma Academy, won the state cross country championship. Her sister Kate, 13, was the second fastest female at 10:36, and the youngest sister, Taylin, 7, was the third-fastest female on the 10K course in 44:01

John Litzenberg, 45, of Glen Ellen made the quickest work of the 10K loop through both parks in 34:23, best by a full 14 seconds. Litzenberg has a bit of what sports announcers call “ownage” on the Human Race, having won three years in a row.

Ysabella Richard, 15, of San Rafael was the fastest female at 37:13.

The oldest timed runner, Bruce Hartman, 74, of Santa Rosa covered 10 kilometers in 1:22:27, finishing 263rd out of 271 entrants.

But the ultimate competition is in dollars donated to the Human Race, which will divvy up the proceeds among the 235 nonprofit organizations that helped raise money, whether their members ran or not.

Online donations to the Human Race website totaled $203,313 on Saturday, exceeding the goal of $200,000, but that’s just a piece of the action.

Fundraising continues through June 30, said Alicia Alexander, events coordinator for the Volunteer Center, which has staged the event since 1981.

On Saturday, the top online nonprofit donor was the Napa County Office of Education CalSERVES at $17,842 and the top individual donor was Katie Lightfoot at $6,500.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @guykovner.

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