Welcome to the co-moon-ity

    Would you pay $25 to run three miles in the dark on a semi-visible course packed with a thousand other people?

    Sophomore Sara Kwasnick would. In fact, she has been participating in the Moonlight Run for the last six years. "It’s fun," Kwasnick said. "My family always does it every year."

    The Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run & Walk, now one of the biggest races on the Peninsula, was started as a joint effort between the Palo Alto Weekly newspaper and the City of Palo Alto recreation department in 1984. The race, which includes a 5-k run, a 10-k run and a 5-k fun walk in the Baylands under the full Harvest Moon, raises thousands of dollars for non-profit organizations in the Bay Area.

    "The monies raised from the Moonlight Run have become the seed money for the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund, which raised about $300,000 just last year," stated Amy Renalds, a seven-time Moonlight Run coordinator. "The money was distributed to 56 local non-profit organizations that focus on children and families, including $10,000 in college scholarships for students at four local high schools."

    The event has proved to be a huge success, with about 3,000 people participating each year, Renalds said. Runners of all ages and experience levels come to share in the fun, ranging from children to seniors.

    Scott Melberg, a Palo Alto native and Class of ’76 Paly alumnus, has been enjoying the run for about eight years. He’s very familiar with the course; he runs at the Baylands in the mornings.

    "I like the Palo Alto community atmosphere," said Melberg, who came with his wife and one of his sons. "It’s a fun event. It’s fun to see parents and kids running in the same race. As with any community event, you see people you know and friends… I’m very comfortable here."

    Runners are not the only ones who show up, however. The large field serving as warm-up, meeting place, and registration area also houses many tables with food, drinks, complimentary merchandise and even a portable rock-climbing wall. Tables are set up for in-kind sponsors offering products at the event, including Whole Foods Market, Hobee’s Restaurant and Arrowhead water, as well as corporate sponsors, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Foundation, the Mid-Peninsula Bank and UC Santa Cruz Extension in Silicon Valley, who each donated $3,9000 to the event. Tables are also given to community organizations such as Palo Alto Recycling and Youth Community Service (YCS), according to Renalds.

    Paly students historically have had quite a turnout as well, with associations running the gamut from Key Club and YCS volunteers to casual participants and an unofficial portion of the boys’ and girls’ cross-country team.

    "I should have been doing this race every year," senior Ali Apple, a first-time participant, said. "It’s a party."

    Volunteers like sophomore Paula Wu, who volunteered with Key Club, help out by handing out water on the course and at the finish line, as well as motivating and directing runners.

    "It brought out the warm fuzzies in me," said Wu, who cheered on and encouraged racers. "I was doing the same 5 phrases over and over again for four hours. After a while it became kind of a pattern, but I meant it. It was really cool."

    Although none of the runners on the Paly cross-country team were running in association with Paly because of league regulations regarding unsanctioned races, some standouts informally did the school proud. Junior Scott Himmelberger won first place in the 10-kilometer race in the thirteen-to-nineteen-year-old male division, while senior Herrel Siller Jr. earned second place in the same division for the 5-k race. Menlo-Atherton senior Evan Anderson won first in the same 5-k division. Sophomores Alicia Ivanhoe and Renata Cummins placed 5th and 6th, respectively, in the 13-19 5k female division.

    "I definitely thought I was going to get second place, and that’s what I got," said Siller Jr. "I feel like the race was very, very comfortable, and I’m ready for Crystal Springs."

    Race times are available on the Palo Alto Online page as of 10 a.m. on October 4. The cross-country team took part in its first Santa Clara Valley Athletic League (SCAVAL) meet of the season at the well-known Crystal Springs course in Belmont on October 5.