April 19, 2014

The Tough Topanga 10K Runs With the Best

 

PHOTO BY ANTHONY VEREBES, MESSENGER, 2012

The Tough Topanga 10K  Runs With the Best

Race coordinators Sparky Greene (left) and Jill Palethorpe (right), who is also Race Director, rev up the runners at the start line with words of encouragement and admiration, and send them on their way.

The annual Original Jacqueline Hansen Tough Topanga 10K is not officially part of Topanga Days, but feels as if the starting gun for hundreds of runners early on the morning of the first day signals the official opening of the three-day fair.

This year’s run was dedicated to the memory of Marie Smith, a Malibu High track coach and long-time volunteer with the 10K, who also created The Malibu Shark Run. Sadly, Smith passed away from colon cancer in January at age 58.

Coordinators Sparky Greene, bullhorn in hand, and Jill Palethorpe, Race Director, are busy with last-minute details. Half an hour before the runners, they send the walkers on their way. Then it’s time to gather at the start line, give a few instructions and, with much encouragement, it’s “Ready, Set, Go!”

A rush of bodies disappear up the fire road and the Trippet Ranch parking lot becomes very quiet except for the volunteers preparing the finish line channel, instructing the timekeepers and helpers who tear the tags off the runners as they come in.

A sumptuous buffet is being set up on the other side of the parking lot near the awards table where Palethorpe has changed hats to oversee the preparation.

“Any profit we make goes to children’s athletics in the Santa Monica Mountains,” says Greene, who finally has time to breathe before the first runners return. “There was a time, you know, when children weren’t allowed to run.”

It had long been a dream of Greene to open the race to young people, especially those from the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, and in 1996, Run Topanga, the non-profit arm of the 10K, was formed. Greene worked with Police Athletic Leagues and Students Run L.A. to introduce the successful outreach program that sponsors groups of young athletes from the city to run the 10K.

Today there are 100 kids from various middle and high schools in the Los Angeles area competing.

“This is why we put this on,” says Greene. “For the kids winning or even just completing the course this is an achievement to be proud of, something that no one can take away, something that very few of his or her peers have even considered doing,” he says.

“Next year we’ll have kids from the probation department or incarcerated. This is what Topanga does for outside communities. This isn’t all about athletics, it’s about children learning to set goals.

“It’s also about Topanga inviting people to come to the Santa Monica Mountains who wouldn’t know this is here. It’s in the reach of everyone.”

“As a race the Topanga 10K manifests everything that is wonderful about the community of Topanga,” their website reads. “A beautifully brutal course through rugged mountains, a phalanx of willing volunteers, a constant financial commitment from Topanga businesses, a cordial relationship with parks and reserves, an age range of competitors from seven to 86 and no shortage of local heroes.”

In a burst of speed, the overall male winner, James Neilsen (40.57) crosses the finish line followed closely by 17-year-old Happy Happy (41.29), first in his age group, 16-19, for the second time. The first overall female winner was Anissa Faulkner (45.03). Kris Keever was Fastest Topanga Female (53.50) and Thomas Foote the Fastest Topanga Male (50.01).

Among this year’s awards for the Topanga frontrunners were copies of the new edition of “The Topanga Story.”

To sponsor a runner is not expensive, just $30 a runner. Run Topanga’s outreach program links race sponsors with young people in Police Athletic Leagues and other after-school programs across L.A. To sponsor a kid or, perhaps, a team, or to learn the results and more about the 10K: topanga10k.com.