SAN"RAMON -- The big countdown -- "four, three, two, one ..." -- and an ear-busting starting horn are what several thousand runners will listen for as they line up for the 30th annual "Run for Education" fundraiser Oct. 13.
The event, held by the San Ramon Valley Education Foundation, is geared to step-up financial support for the San Ramon Valley schools.
"Not only is this one of the largest community-builders for the community funds to the district," said Terry Koehne, spokesperson for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, "but the run has really established itself as the biggest gathered event in the San Ramon Valley."
The foundation has traditionally donated its proceeds from the event, formerly known as "Primo's Run for Education," to the school district. The money is used to support the district's four major educational objectives for its 35 elementary, middle, and high schools: classrooms for the future; STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs; literacy; and professional development.
Thirty years ago, SVREF's first fundraiser drew 600 participants, said foundation Executive Director Cristene Burr. In contrast, last year's event drew 9,200 participants. Organizers are projecting this year's event to be the largest in the San Ramon Valley.
"Our goal is 10,000. We're hoping to shatter the record again," said Koehne.
Since it started in 1983, the foundation has donated more than $4 million to the school district, said Burr. The amounts raised each year, during the past five years, have continued to increase to the tune of $350,000 last year alone. This year, organizers are hoping to raise $400,000.
In years past, there used to be a 10K and a 5K run. This year there will be a half-marathon (13 miles) and a 5K walk/run event. The majority of the entrants participate in the 5K walk/run, and last year about 600 to 700 people ran the marathon, said Burr. Entrants can also choose to use a $5 electronic timing-device to assess whether their times qualify them for regional or national races.
"It's a perfect event. They can practice on courses that are certified by the USA Track & Field," said Burr. "If a runner runs in our race, they get to qualify for two of the more higher-profile marathons like the Boston Marathon and the New York (City) Marathon, if their time qualifies."
Toward the end of the event at the Iron Horse Middle School, there will be entertainment, including school bands, and booths will be set up where sponsors will give away merchandise and prizes. Schools that garner the most participants will get money donated to that particular school's Parent-Teacher Association, said Koehne. Burr said that last year $50,000 was given to one PTA. "It'll be lots of super-fun!" said Burr.
Previously, the run was a two-day affair with a dinner the night before at which runners could load up on carbohydrates to better fuel their subsequent early-morning exercise. However this year, said Burr, as a way to contribute to the schools, the Rotary Club of San Ramon is instead holding an online auction. Entrants will have a chance to win vacation stays, restaurant certificates and other prizes, including wine. The Rotary Club's goal is $60,000, which they hope to donate to the district's pool of funds, said Burr.
Among those already registered for the 5K walk and run are Danville residents Katie Lee, her husband, their two sons and their 6-year-old daughter. The children attend Los Cerros Middle School and Green Valley Elementary. Lee, 42, said, "It's a fun family thing to do, and you have the added benefit of directly supporting schools (your) children attend."
"The community supports education, plain and simple," said Koehne. "We consistently rank as one of the highest-performing school districts in the state of California," he added. "Most parents purchase a home largely because of the reputation of the schools. 'Run for Education' is the best example for that," he said.
The 5K walk/run starts at 8:15 a.m. at Iron Horse Middle School in San Ramon. The half-marathon begins at 7:15 a.m. Both runs begin and end at Iron Horse Middle School, 12601 Alcosta Blvd. in San Ramon. Auction tickets will be sold online Oct. 1-11 by the Rotary Club of San Ramon.
Online registration fees: $25 for 5K, $60 for half-marathon before Sept. 20
Online fees after Sept. 20: $30 for 5K, $65 for half-marathon
In-person fees: $35 for 5K, $70 for half-marathon
Fees on race day: $40 for 5K, $75 for half-marathon; organizers encourage the public to show up well in advance of the start times.