Rain can't dampen spirits at Santa Rosa's St. Patrick's Day run

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Nearly 500 runners and walkers turned out Sunday for downtown Santa Rosa’s fifth annual St. Patrick’s Day 5K, despite chilly winds and a persistent drizzle that turned to a sudden downpour in the middle of the race.

Contestants ranging in age from 4 to 81 seemed in good spirits, even though many were cold and drenched during the afternoon run.

Some racers pushed strollers or trailed their leashed dogs as they braved the rain.

In keeping with the St. Patrick’s Day theme, many wore green, including quite a few damp leprechaun hats and emerald-colored tutus — even though the actual holiday doesn’t happen until Thursday.

The foul weather evidently discouraged some of the 800 people who pre-registered from taking part, but it was a still a good crowd, organizers said, with many runners staying to celebrate afterwards.

“Some are serious racers and others just run for fun,” said Adriane Mertens, marketing and outreach coordinator for the Santa Rosa Parks and Recreation Department, which sponsors the event as a fundraiser to provide youth scholarships for swimming and other programs.

The run started and ended at Juilliard Park, following a route that looped through downtown before heading out on the Prince Memorial Greenway along Santa Rosa Creek and then back. Finishers were rewarded with free beer (kids got root beer instead).

The first runner across the finish line was Jason Selby, 41, of Santa Rosa, participating for the second year in a row. His time was 20 minutes and 18 seconds.

“I love the parks, so I come out to support them,” Selby said after the race. “I had a good time and now I have my victory beer, but now I’m going to go get warm.”

The first female participant to cross the finish line was Santa Rosa High School student Katrina Frandsen, 14, with a time of 25 minutes and 35 seconds.

Alexander Oceguera, 32, who was the fourth to cross the finish line, said the race has become a tradition for his family and friends.

One of the more colorfully costumed runners was David Abbott, 55, who wore a jester’s hat and a bright green tie with blinking lights. It was the fifth consecutive year he’s participated.

“My wife has been trying to get me to wear a tie for years,” he joked.

It turned out to be a big day for Abbott, who also ran in the Ilsanjo Classic 10-mile footrace through Santa Rosa’s Howarth, Spring Lake and Annadel parks that morning.

“It’s not often you get to do two runs in one day,” Abbott said, “especially in such lovely weather.”

You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @danarts.

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