Idyllwild 5k/10k race and fitness walk a romp for all ages

You have to be there — literally. And if you can walk, no matter how slowly, there’s a place for you.

For the past 37 years, the second Saturday in June is race day — the Idyllwild 5,000 meter/10,000 meter race and fitness walk celebrates everything that makes Idyllwild a tonic for body and soul: exercise, fresh air and majestic mountain scenery.

Although the race and walk are exhilarating, the half hour or so before the race is idiosyncratically Idyllwild. It’s usually chilly — the sun is just beginning to illuminate sections of Village Center Drive where runners and walkers are gathering. Some are fast-walking around the square to limber up, some are running and some are simply staking out sunlit sections of the street to literally get warm.

Through it all, announcer-in-chief Chip Shelly wittily greets participants by name. Yes, Idyllwild’s that kind of town, where Chip knows most of those who have come out for the race. The mountain air is bracingly fresh but not too cold for locals. Non-locals crowd Higher Grounds for caffeinated warmth.

And for many, if not for most, race day is not about winning — it’s about gathering with friends and neighbors to raise money for Idyllwild School physical education programs and equipment. It’s showing up to make a difference. Over the years, the Race Committee has raised more than $70,000 to fund PE equipment, scoreboards, turf for top field, athletic uniforms and other items for Idyllwild School. Without race proceeds, the school would lack much of the financial underpinning of its PE program.

Occasionally, the race can change lives. Runner and triathlete Bill Whitman first ran the 10k in 1992. “I had such a positive impression of the town and became very intrigued with Idyllwild,” he remembered. Whitman is now a full-time resident and physical therapist/attorney for many town residents.

Race day this year is held on Saturday, June 10. Start times are 7:15 a.m. for the 5k race (slight delay for the fitness walkers), 8 a.m. for the 10k and 9:15 a.m. for the Kid’s Run at Town Hall. There will be an awards ceremony after the race and a pancake breakfast.

The top male and female finishers in the 5k and 10k will receive special awards and custom medallions. Awards also will be given to the top three male and female finishers in each age group of the runs. The top five overall male and female finishers in the 5k fitness walk also will receive awards.

So mark your calendar and consider the salutary benefits of participating — brisk, early-morning mountain air, camaraderie, pom-pom waving race cheerleaders along the race route, Chip Schelly on the microphone as you start and urging you on as you finish, and a post-race hi-carb feast.

This year’s Race Committee includes: Mike Slattery, Darren McKay, Matt Kraemer, Chip Schelly, Leslie Schelly and Garrie Wein. Race information, including fees and registration, can be found at