READY SET GO - Runners burst past the starting line to support Rotary's charitable efforts. (Dinah Cotton / Los Gatan)

The 46th Annual Los Gatos Rotary Great Race was held Sunday at Vasona Lake County Park, with the start and finish line both located at the Gateway Pavilion.

This year’s chairman was Paul Christensen’s third year as chair of the event.

“Actually, I took over for Mike Norcia, who was the chairman for the previous 10 years or so,” he said, just prior to the starting gun going off.

Willie Harmatz
Willie Harmatz. (Dinah Cotton / Los Gatan)

“This year we have 454 entrants pre-registered, and hope to get 50 or so more on race day.”

Former Los Gatos High School track and field coach Willie Harmatz started the Great Race in the 70s, and it’s been held almost every year since—it was paused during the Covid-19 pandemic.

On the field during this year’s festivities, Harmatz recalled the 1976 birth of the race.

“We used to call this the Dammit Run and have a competition to see who would sign up the most runners,” Harmatz said.

“We also called this the Criss Cross Race. After years of holding the race on Highway 9, we lost our police backing and the number of entrants has declined since then.”

The USA Track & Field-sanctioned four-mile race involves pretty complicated logistics.

This past Sunday, USATF officials were on duty to record racers’ times.

Each runner was issued a bib with a chip that would keep exact time.

Qualified participants ran for points towards an overall tally.

Some may even eventually qualify for the 2028 Summer Olympics.

Entry fees ranged from $10 for children 12 and under all the way up to $50 for late registration.

All proceeds go to support Rotary’s charitable endeavors.

for a good cause
BLAST-OFF – Racing for a “Great” cause. (Dinah Cotton / Los Gatan)

There was also a bit of a rivalry between Saratoga and Los Gatos, two close—yet very different—communities.

For a few years it was also a turnaround race as well (back to Saratoga)—for a total of eight miles.

with giants mascot
TRIO – Isabella Awdow (left) and Domarina Awdow with a Giants mascot. (Dinah Cotton / Los Gatan)

The 2024 event has attracted plenty of support from the business community, with El Camino Health as the “presenting sponsor,” and Darling Fischer and the Los Gatan coming in as Silver Sponsors.

Wood chips had been put down, and there was a waffle truck.

Participants included children in strollers, folks with dogs and people who chose to walk.

And thankfully, Mother Nature cooperated by providing a break from the rain.

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