Season for runners to hit the highway

  • 8/26/2013: C4:PC: Runners take off from the starting line during the Santa Rosa 5K on South A St. in Santa Rosa, California on Sunday, August 25, 2013. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

Every summer, thousands of people throughout Sonoma County decide to hit the road — without ever backing the family car out of the garage.

Those who prefer to travel fast by foot will find a full slate of running events, whether they're out to compete, get some exercise or just have some fun.

The Empire Runners Club, founded in 1975, is 1,000 members strong now and puts on two dozen races a year. But its biggest one by far is the Kenwood Footrace on July 4.

"Our flagship event is the Kenwood Footrace," said Chris Mason, a member of the club's board of directors. "It's bigger, with more spectators. It's also in conjunction with Kenwood's Fourth of July celebration, so it's very community oriented."

The club also puts on smaller events, including the Salmon Creek Beach Runs on Aug. 3 at Bodega Bay.

"We put on our own races, and our membership also participates in almost every local race as well. We're about supporting the running community as a whole, not just our events," Mason said.

Coming up in late August, the Santa Rosa Marathon, presented by True Grit Running and De Loach Vineyards, offers runners a chance to qualify for next year's Boston Marathon.

But the event is also open to participants who just want to run for the fun of it, with both a half-marathon and 5-kilometer race available as well.

"You've got people who want to walk the 5K and the families that want to participate by running or jogging. Obviously, we've got competitive runners, but we've also got kids who want to go out for the day," said Orhan Sarabi, race director for the Santa Rosa Marathon.

Here's a rundown of some of the summer's most notable runs:

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