The longest-running, community-wide sporting event on the Hill will take place Saturday, June 9, with hundreds of runners and walkers pushing themselves beyond their usual limit in Idyllwild’s annual 5K and 10K Run and Fitness Walk.
Athletes will pound the pavement through downtown and forest campgrounds, and in off-the-beaten path neighborhoods to help raise money for the physical-education program at Idyllwild School.
After more than 35 years and with the support of local merchants, community organizations and individuals, the foot race has pumped more than $70,000 into the kindergarten through eighth-grade school’s coffers.
Idyllwild Race Committee, a nonprofit organization, is hoping to attract 300 to 400 participants, maintaining the race’s popularity and a steady flow of local and off-the-Hill participants who return year after year.
“The race itself is a challenge and the course strenuous because of the altitude, but our scenic rolling hills, sunny, cool, pleasant days are a big draw,” Race Committee member Michael Slattery said. “And it’s fun, with custom-designed, [long-sleeved] T-shirts.
“We’ve got an active volunteer committee including Idyllwild School’s Principal Matt Kraemer and P.E Teacher Darren McKay, our president. We’ve been working on the event for several months,” Slattery said.
“And on race day, we’ll get good support from the Idyllwild Mountain Community Patrol and Idyllwild’s Fire Department. It will be on hand for traffic control and the paramedics for emergencies … but I can’t remember any emergencies during past races.
“Our advice to first-timers is to start out moderate and get acclimated to the altitude.”
Along with high-school students, weekend athletes, experienced competitors and entrants with physical limitations, event Emcee Chip Schelly confirmed that a few septuagenarians and octogenarians are in the mix, as in years past.
A significant number of participants will travel from Riverside and San Diego counties, and in previous races, from Ojai, in Ventura County. Some participants may show up in costumes in a nod to their alter-egos.
“All are welcome,” Slattery said. “And the event’s pet friendly, too.”
Lucy Osak, a 64-year-old licensed vocational nurse from Hemet, owes her love of road-racing to grit, determination, training — and a bevy of roadside supporters shouting words of encouragement.
“I have found no matter your size, ability or speed, there are people ready to cheer you on,” Osak said.
Osak’s journey to Idyllwild’s 5K and 10K began almost 40 years ago as a mother of two taking ballet classes for fun.
“During a class, I fell while doing a grand plié. The next day, my right knee was locked in a 90° angle. Six weeks later, I had my first knee surgery, an arthrotomy, to relieve the pain and other problems I was having.
“With hyper-mobility, my knees were most affected. They would ‘go out’ without warning. The meniscus — the cartilage between my thigh and shinbones — would tear and after a while, there was bone-on-bone.
“I had 24 knee surgeries to try to fix and repair the damage, sometimes with serious complications like inflammation and blood clots [thrombophlebitis]. Eventually, both of my knees had to be replaced.”
By her late 50s, in addition to the surgeries, Osak had been diagnosed with a laundry list of medical conditions. “Heart problems —Tricuspid Valve Disorder (TVD) — and multiple connective tissue disorder (MCTD),” she said.
“I believe the MCTD and my last diagnosis, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, are related. Ehlers is a rare disorder and inherited. It affects my skin, joints, and the walls of my blood vessels. Both my niece and daughter have it.”
Over the years, Osak says she has “suffered migraines and seizures, and learned to live with chronic pain. At one point, my orthopedist placed me on long-term disability.
“For so many decades, doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. And every time I went to new doctors, they would find something else wrong. It was a long … and very frustrating time in my life.”
Pushing 60, Osak decided she “needed to work on myself. The thought of aging and not being able to move, walk and the loss of balance were scary.”
Since November 2017, she has completed 10 races — nine 5Ks and one 10K — in three states. Idyllwild’s 5K, will be her seventh.
“I am unable to ‘run’ due to my Total Knee Replacement (TNR). My doctor does not want me to run since it can affect or possibly damage the replacements, but I have an X-ray yearly to make sure there are no changes.
“In my last race, I managed to woggle (walk/jog) a 13-minute mile, a personal record, but by mostly walking.
“I hope my story can give hope to those with disabilities to just start with a few steps a day, and just maybe they, too, can run (walk) the event next year.
“Maybe someone will be inspired to get up and move. Wouldn’t that be great?”
When not competing in races, Osak trains and stays fit in a variety of ways. She joined the 2018 “I Love to Run 1,000 Mile Challenge” and uses “Run Girl Run” for virtual runs. So far, she has completed 624 miles and has been successful in 50- and 100-mile monthly challenges.
“Both groups are very supportive and inspirational, no matter your size, ability or speed. ‘Run, walk or crawl’ is their motto. Just keep moving. I also joined a bunch of ladies in Hemet that walk three mornings a week.
“And you are never too old to find love again,” Osak added.
“During my Rock ’n Roll races in Nevada, Arizona and Texas, I held hands the whole way with Bruce McQuerry, my first steady boyfriend from El Modena High School in Orange, California.”
Last June, McQuerry and Osak went on a date.
“It was fantastic,” Osak said. “He knew I walked a lot and I jumped at his invitation to ‘run’ the Las Vegas Rock ’n’ Roll 5K together.
“I hadn’t seen him in 46 years.”
Osak and other Idyllwild 5K and 10K competitors will kick-off at Harmony Monument in the center of town; runners 7 years and younger will run a half-mile loop starting at nearby Town Hall.
Older participants are eligible to earn prizes, special awards and custom medallions. All kids in the half-mile Fun Run will receive an award at the finish line.
After the final race is completed, families and well-wishers can share the glory with finishers and prize-winners at the awards ceremony outside Town Hall.
Idyllwild School PTA will serve an all-you-can-eat Pancake Breakfast from 8 to11 a.m. at Town Hall. The proceeds benefit Idyllwild School.
The 5K race starts at 7:15 a.m.; the 10K at 8 a.m.; and the halfmile kids’ run at 9:15 a.m.