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Copper Run enters 13th year, thanks to local couple

By Ryan Wallace

When Ed Friel and Marilyn Richardson began thinking about bringing a road race to Copperopolis, they weren´t sure what it would take.

Thirteen years later, it seems safe to say, the couple figured it out.

The annual Copper Run at Black Creek Park in Copperopolis will take place this Saturday, with a 1/2-mile, 2-mile and 10K races. For Friel and Richardson, who organized the event for the first 11 years before handing it over to the Copperopolis Elementary School and Copperopolis Volunteer Fire Department, it was a very challenging, but rewarding endeavor.

Not having any experience with organizing an event like this, the couple went through some growing pains.

“It cost a little bit to get it going,” Richardson said. “The first year we only had one sponsor and I had to put in the rest. We didn´t make any money, but it was real educational.

“It´s amazing the things you might not think about.”

Richardson said she didn´t know about getting clearance from the county on blocking roads and filling out the proper forms. But year after year it got easier.

Richardson got the idea for the road race because she didn´t want to travel all over to take part in races, and she also wanted to bring a healthy atmosphere to the area.

“It´s nice to have one at home and to introduce some of the locals to running,” she said. “And I was tired of traveling into the valley and the fog of San Francisco to run in races.”

While Richardson was busy taking care of all the paper work, Friel embarked on designing the course. He agreed the first few years were tough, but they were worth it. In the first race, less than 75 people took part. Over the last four years, the numbers have increased to close to 200.

Friel said the course, which features three hills that are 180 feet high, has become a favorite for many runners in the surrounding areas.

“We´re getting so many people from the valley and they like the rolling hills,” he said. “Very little of it is flat and for people from Fresno and beyond and Sacramento, they like that. They have a good time running it and they always tell me, whatever you do don´t change the course.”

He said having a running event in January can be tough, but he credits the Black Creek Clubhouse for helping the event run smoothly.

“They´ve kept things clean and it´s nice for the runners,” he said. “Because in January you´re going to get rained on. But the runners can stay warm until it´s time to run. It´s such a nice start/finish line.”

Another distinct feature of the race is that it features T-shirts with the winning design from a Copperopolis elementary student. Second-grader A.J. Braly´s design was chosen and will be worn by contestants in the Copper Run. Also, all proceeds of the event are split equally between the school and volunteer fire department.

Julia Tidbal, the principal at Copperopolis Elementary School and co-director of the event along with Ed Gouzenne of the fire department, said she expects the number of runners this year to be near the 200 mark.

“It´s a wonderful event and we´re getting people from all over the state,” Tidbal said.

She added that since the race´s beginning, there has been an increase in not only the number of participants, but the number of sponsors as well.

“We have 25 community sponsors and this is such a community event,” she said. “The staff from the school and the fire department do a great job helping out on the course.”

For Friel and Richardson, one of the greatest gifts has been seeing children, who ran the shorter events years ago, come back with their kids to run in the event.

Richardson said having the younger kids get into a healthy routine at there age is very important.

“It´s been nice to watch it grow and to know that more kids are running at school,” said Richardson, who has been the postmaster in Avery for more than 25 years.

Richardson said she and her husband have always tried to incorporate a healthy and active lifestyle, and it has really helped with their health and relationship.

“It´s huge,” she said. “Even when I walk at lunch time, things roll off my shoulders that otherwise would have bothered me. Little things don´t bother me as much when I´m exercising.”

Friel, 74, who has been an avid runner and swimmer for nearly 40 years, said staying active has really helped him, both physically and mentally.

During the first 11 years of the Copper Run, Friel wasn´t able to run in the event because he was too busy organizing it, but he was finally able to run the race for the first time last year. He has also been a part of the Pacific Masters swimming events, which are mile or 2-mile swims in rough water, like Lake Sonoma.

“I´ve been an asthmatic my whole life and I got involved with running when I was working in the northern part of Las Vegas,” Friel said. “And it kept my asthma under control and I enjoy it. I like to keep in shape, plus I have a 13-year-old kid and I can´t allow him to beat me up.”

The Copper Run will start with the 2-mile run at 9 a.m., followed by the 1/2-mile run beginning at 9:45 a.m. The 10K run will begin at 10:15. Registration is $20 the day of the race.

Contact Ryan Wallace.

Reprinted with kind permission from Calaveras Enterprise