Head for the Hills with the Morgan Territory Fun Run

If you've ever wondered what kind of perspective the eastern hills have to offer, the Morgan Territory Fun Run on Saturday, April 25, will give you the chance to find out first-hand. The ridge-top panorama extends from Mt. Diablo to the west to Mt. St. Helena to the north and the snow-covered Sierras to the east. It is without question a spectacular collection of scenery.

Stuart Smith started East Bay Trail Runners to showcase those sweeping vistas and others like them in parks in the East Bay regional system. A runner since high school, he developed a passion for trail racing - and frustration over having to go all the way to Marin County for competitive events. Looking for something more convenient, he established a trail-running group closer to home.

The group held its first race last spring, on Pleasanton Ridge, with 25 participants. This year's version, which took place in March, was more than twice as large, attracting 60 people.

Because of the sensitive terrain and parking lot limits, the upcoming run in Morgan Territory is limited to just 50 people, 25 each in the 5K and 10K categories. Many of the runners will be setting foot in the park for the very first time. They will be treated to an uncommon communion with nature, promises Smith, who works in Ross Stores corporate office in Hacienda as Facilities Manager. He knows the Livermore park very well, running or hiking there at least twice a month.

"I'm typically out at 5 a.m., and I hike 12 to 15 miles. That early you can hear the coyotes howl and watch the sun coming up," he notes. In the far reaches of the park he has spotted red fox, bobcats, and deer.

As for routing the races, Smith studied the map and picked out trails, most of which are fire roads, that come as close to the 5K and 10K distances as possible. Then he walked or ran both distances to see what the terrain was like. "That's the fun part for me," he relates. "I'm out there by myself for three to five hours of mind-clearing solitude." With an elevation gain and drop under 300 feet, the 5K course is perfect for novice trail runners, walkers, and families. "The 10K course is another story, with a gain and fall of 1,100 feet," he reports.

Looking to the future, the trail-running group will hold both Pleasanton and Livermore events again this fall. As part of Smith's mission to spread awareness of "the beautiful nature preserves in our own backyard," he is investigating other potential settings like the Sunol Regional Wilderness. Plans are also in the works to launch a high-elevation running camp in the Sierras in August 2010. "This will be a five-day event over different trails to get in shape for the fall running season," he says.

Sponsors of the Morgan Territory race include GU Energy Gel in Berkeley, Montrail Shoes in Richmond, JW Consulting in San Francisco, and Hacienda's GH GROUP. For more information about the running group or to register for the run, visit www.ebtrailrunners.com .

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