Sports & Recreation: Race into summer

Get going with this guide to summertime runs and marathons

Eppie’s great race is the world’s oldest triathlon and includes running, biking and a nice wet paddle to finish you off.

Eppie’s great race is the world’s oldest triathlon and includes running, biking and a nice wet paddle to finish you off.

Photo courtesy eppie's great race

Nearly 100 years ago, a triathlon wasn’t yet the tremendous, corporate-controlled and mainstream Olympic endeavor it is today. But the French knew the three-sport world, with athletes competing in an event called Les Trois Sports (“The Three Sports”).

The trek included crossing the channel Marne in northeastern France, followed by a 12-kilometer (7.5-mile) bike ride and a 3-kilometer (1.9-mile) run. The race was lengthened a decade later, but it took another 40 years before triathlon caught on in the United States.

In the early 1970s, lifeguards, collegiate swimmers, runners and cyclists in southern California began to test the versatility of their endurance skills. That’s also when Sacramento restaurateur Eppie Johnson had the same idea and started his variation on the theme with Eppie’s Great Race (

Promoted as the world’s oldest triathlon, it’s more accurately defined as the oldest three-sport event of its kind—a 5.82-mile run, 12.5-mile bike and 6.1-mile paddle. Held annually since 1974, the 45th and final edition is scheduled to take place July 21 along the American River Parkway.

Young and old, everyone tackles the competition: Elite athletes do the event solo on or teams, as well as families, friends and co-workers. It formerly attracted more than 2,000 participants, but now has a field of about half the size. Johnson died in 2013, and his family decided 45 editions were enough. The last year will correspond to the age of the founder when the event began. Therapeutic Recreation Services of Sacramento County remains the event’s the longtime beneficiary.

While Eppie’s Great Race attracts a diverse representation of the exercising community, the Sacramento region is a hub for other mass participation and niche long-distance running events. Here a few others scheduled this summer:

Gold Country Half-Marathon

Its debut last year was well-organized and provided a scenic, challenging 13.1-mile trek in El Dorado Hills. The start/finish is the El Dorado Hills Center and the Sacramento Running Association, the race organizers, have a sense of humor.

The half-marathon (there’s also a 3.1-mile division) is billed as “the flattest and fastest course in the foothills.” It’s not. The route is rural and suburban, and includes steep climbs, long gradual downhills and some flat sections. It’s a tough, beautiful course with plenty of rewards at the finish, including beer, wine, food, music—and a lot of good karma. This year’s event takes place on June 10.

Do-Nation, 5-Mile Run

Celebrate the Fourth of July holiday with a morning event that progresses through the River Park neighborhood. It’s a free run on a flat course through tree-lined streets beginning and ending at Glenn Hall Park. There’s also a half-mile run for children (ages 10 and younger). The Sacramento-based Buffalo Chips Running Club will organize the event for the 42nd year with a volunteer staff. The run benefits Women Escaping A Violent Environment (WEAVE) and the American River Parkway Foundation. Food and monetary donations are welcomed.

The Fab 40s 5K

A benefit for the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern California, this July 28 run and walk starts and ends at East Lawn Memorial Park, encompassing the East Sacramento neighborhood known as the Fab 40s. There are also quarter-mile and half-mile kids’ runs. Now it its 11th year, the event aims to increase the understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and its devastating effect on families. Participants are encouraged to visit the Alzheimer’s Memorial Wall in East Lawn Memorial Park and inscribe the name of someone who has died or is afflicted by the disease. Awards and raffle prizes aplenty.

Pear Fair Run

The Delta town of Courtland, which sits along the Sacramento River, hosts a 10-mile and 5-mile run (a free half-mile kids’ run) to celebrate the Bartlett Pear Harvest. This year’s run, which takes place July 29, is a charming, small-town event with a celebration that includes a pancake breakfast, arts and crafts, music and a lot of food, much of it made with pears. What’s not to like? The event is limited to 250 runners and promises a fun day filled with exercise, fresh fruit treats and a visit to the historic Sacramento Delta agricultural land.