Colfax woman sweeps Run to Feed the Hungry races as more than 27,000 turn out

Hillary Sunada has had her turkey dinner hat for five years and proudly wears it Thursday for Sacramento’s Run to Feed the Hungry. The event helps finance the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.
Hillary Sunada has had her turkey dinner hat for five years and proudly wears it Thursday for Sacramento’s Run to Feed the Hungry. The event helps finance the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. aseng@sacbee.com

The Run to Feed the Hungry, the annual calorie-burning event through Sacramento, went off for the 21st time on Thursday. What started with 800 runners has turned into an enormous tradition for thousands of families throughout Northern California. In honor of the race, we bring to you 6.2 facts you may or may not have known about Run to Feed the Hungry. That’s one fact for every mile in the 10-kilometer race.

1.0 It’s for a good cause:

This year’s race raised more than $900,000 to benefit the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. That represents about 20 percent of the food bank’s annual budget. The food bank also received 9,344 turkeys during a donation drive last week, the most ever donated to the organization.

The money raised by the race supports nutrition classes, job training and parenting programs.

“This supports programs and needs throughout the year,” said Blake Young, the president and chief executive officer of Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. “It’s important the public knows how grateful we are. We don’t take this for granted.”

2.0 It’s super fast:

Just ask Jane Kibii. She grew up in Iten, Kenya, a small village that is legendary for producing world-class runners. Kibii lives and trains in Colfax and is considered a top contender in next month’s California International Marathon.

On Thursday, Kibii blasted through the 10-kilometer course and finished as the top female in 33:29. A race volunteer tried to give Kibii a plaque, but she didn’t have time to accept it. Kibii had another race to get to.

That second race happened to be the 5-kilometer race, which started all of 11 minutes after Kibii finished her 10K. But if she was tired, it didn’t show – Kibii also won the 5K race, breaking the female course record by more than a minute with a time of 16:03.

Kibii’s reason for pulling double duty will probably bum out all you weekend warriors.

“I just wanted to get in some speed work; it was a good workout,” she said.

Malcolm Richards also thought the course was fast. The San Francisco resident was the top overall finisher in the 10K, crossing the line in 30:36, more than two minutes before the next runner.

“I didn’t realize how big this race was,” he said.

3.0 It really is that big:

California hosts some other big Turkey Day runs. The race in San Jose gets about 20,000 timed runners, which isn’t bad. There’s a run through Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, and apparently the race down in Dana Point is quite scenic.

Denver has a big race, if you’re into running at a high elevation. And the trot in Buffalo, N.Y., is the oldest, if you’re into running in snow.

But by many accounts, the Run to Feed the Hungry appears to be the largest Thanksgiving run in the country. This year’s count, as of a few minutes before the start of the race: 27,731.

4.0 It has an army of volunteers:

They help carry exhausted runners out of the finishing area and hand out water. Some have to chase people walking dogs off the course. All of them seem to cheer.

This year, 650 volunteers showed up to help the race run smoothly.

That included Vanessa Mitchell and Francesca Tripoli. This was their third year volunteering, and for that streak they were granted the duty of using a megaphone to politely ask runners to “KEEP MOVING!!!” after they crossed the finish line.

“Next year we’re hoping they give us the golf cart,” Tripoli said.

Tripoli and Mitchell enjoyed their jobs. Maybe too much.

“It’s cool, and we don’t want to run,” Mitchell said.

“And they encourage us to boss people around, which we love,” added Tripoli.

5.0 It’s a team sport:

Hundreds of runners participated in teams. Wells Fargo was represented by 611 runners. A crowd of more than 500 came out from Christian Brothers High School.

An actual team ran together, too. A 40-person contingent from Sacramento Republic FC, the city’s pro soccer club, ran and walked. The group included players Justin Braun, Rodrigo Lopez and Adam Jahn.

Jahn grew up in Davis and attended Jesuit High School. He’s run the Davis Turkey Trot before, but this was his first Run to Feed the Hungry.

Some fans recognized the players and stopped to take photos with the group.

“It’s really cool to see the turnout,” Jahn said. “It’s not just for soccer games, it’s for everything. The city is growing so fast, and it’s great to be a part of it.”

6.0 It’s a party:

Not everyone shows up for the workout.

As always, there seemed to be a capacity crowd at Clark’s Corner, the neighborhood bar and restaurant on J Street not far from the starting line. A block away, members of the Ghilardi family were hosting their annual front-lawn gig, complete with coffee and bloody marys.

“Every year, it’s nice to sit out here and relax,” said Tommy Ghilardi, who swore he was going to run the 5K after watching the 10K runners go by.

The post-race scene was festive, too. Large balloons lined the finishing area, and the band On Air got people dancing.

6.2 It’s not slowing down:

After 21 years, the race is as popular as it’s ever been.

“It’s a Sacramento tradition,” said Young, the food bank director. “I can’t imagine Sacramento without it.”

Moments before the gun went off, Roman Catholic Bishop Jaime Soto led the massive crowd in prayer.

“May this always be a race to end hunger,” he said.

Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at www.sacbee.com/citybeat.

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