Five upcoming small-field running events

Published: Thursday, May. 24, 2012 - 12:06 am | Page 3D

June 2: Forest of Nisene Marks Marathon, Aptos Village Park, Aptos Creek Road and Soquel Drive, Aptos; 8 a.m.; (831) 662-0886; www.nisenemarksmarathon. com.

Not much beats running past redwood trees, along creeks and within a canvas of oak and manzanita groves. The longer a runner runs in the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, the more diverse the scenery in the event that includes a 5-kilometer race, half-marathon and marathon.

The marathon division defines the appeal of solitary running among the park's logging roads replete with a second generation of redwoods. Only 47 runners finished the marathon last year in inclement weather. The half-marathon and 5-kilometer distances attract larger, but still ideally small fields.

The 5K division is held on a shaded, near flat out-and-back course fire trail and paved road with minimal elevation gain and plenty of shade. The half-marathon is a lollipop-shaped course with an out-and-back circuit of fire roads and a single-track trail.

July 4: July 4th 5K Fun Run, 500 Main St., Chester; 8:30 a.m.; (530) 258-2562.

The event begins on the Collins Pine Lawn on Main Street in the center of the historic city, elevation 4,500 feet, population 2,500. That's enough appeal to make the trip to the small lumber community nestled on Lake Almanor in Plumas County.

The course only adds to the appeal. It's a dirt trail, conifers, small footbridges and the Feather River lined with willows. The aid station in past years was the flatbed of an old truck, with paper cups filled with water.

The event has been around for more than three decades, with the homespun run the start of a full day of July 4 celebrations.

Sept. 6: 49er Canyon 10-Miler, Lincoln Way, Auburn, 8 a.m.; (530) 878-0697;

About 40 runners participated last year and negotiated the varied course, 2.3 miles of paved road, 6.4 miles combined on the Western States Trail and Stage Coach Trail, and then 1.3 miles rolling paved road.

The Stage Coach Trail section is a favorite training ground for ultra-distance hill repeats. It's steep and slightly longer than two miles. The Western States portion of the trail arguably gives runners a brief glimpse of the country's most well-known 100-miler, held annually on the last weekend of June.

Nov. 10: Last Chance 50, Cavitt School, Granite Bay; 6:30 a.m.: (916) 765-6021;

Its name is derived from 50-mile division runners seeking a last chance at a qualifying time for the following year's Western States 100. But the Last Chance events are ideal for several additional reasons. Low-key and self-contained, an estimated 250 runners combined participate in the three events running along the American River Parkway.

The 30-kilometer race is an ideal test, without the potential intimidation and pressure of larger-crowd events. Many use it as a last training run for the California International Marathon a few weeks later.

Like the event's other divisions, the Last Chance 50-kilometer run affords a scenic, out-and-back course along the American River Parkway for experienced runners and those tackling a distance longer than the marathon for the first time. Aid stations are plentiful and fully staffed. The course parallels the river and offers an appealing mix of flat stretches and steady, runable climbs.

Nov. 24: Quad Dipsea, Old Mill Park, 320 Throck-morton St., Mill Valley; (707) 431-9898;

Lots of runners know the Dipsea Race was the subject of the 1986 movie "On the Edge" starring Bruce Dern. But its longer and younger sibling has its own appeal.

It's serious running in a not-so-serious atmosphere. The difficulty is the 9,276 feet of climbing and corresponding descents. The fun is the post-race barbecue, black-bean soup and giveaways by the organizer.

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