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Camaraderie blooms at Almond Blossom Run

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Camaraderie blooms at Almond Blossom Run

Shannon Moran (middle) will take part in the 8-kilometer Almond Blossom Run on Feb. 23 with her daughter Katelynn (right). The two often train and race together, but never at this distance.

Photo contributed/


POSTED January 29, 2013 12:38 a.m.

Shannon Moran’s feet have carried her all over Northern California, from The Color Run in Sacramento to the marathon in Modesto.

When she toes the starting line at the Ripon Almond Blossom Run she’ll have competed and completed much longer, much more demanding races.

That’s for sure.

But nothing – not the bling, nor the courses and their picturesque backdrops – will compare to the finish-line scene at Mavis Stouffer Park on Feb. 23.

Moran will run the quirky 8-kilometer race with her daughter Katelynn, a 10-year-old fifth grader at Parkview Elementary.

“She has a real passion for running,” Moran said. “She’s been exposed to different running activities, so she’s gets really excited for races.”

The two train together regularly but have never run a race longer than a 5K. Running has become their girl time; their break away from the stresses of school and work.

“I love running. I could run all day if I was able to,” said Katelynn, who also aspires to cheer for the Ripon Chiefs youth football team. “This is something special that we get to do together. Our family is pretty active, but we love running; it’s our time together.”

In many ways, their bond is a reason why the Almond Blossom Run has survived changes in leadership, the twists and turns of the economy and the natural rise and fall of registration.

The people of Ripon and within the greater Central Valley running community care, Moran said, and it’s evident at their finish lines over the years.

 “The one thing that stood out after the Almond Blossom Run was a majority of the people stayed to cheer,” said Moran, who owns Mr. Pickles in Manteca and last ran the Almond Blossom four years ago. “That’s what is great about Ripon and these small-town races. It’s the camaraderie.

“A lot of people stayed to cheer. There were a lot of clapping hands. For someone just starting out or coming back (to running), it’s good for them to experience someone clapping for them. I thought that was cool.”

The allure of the Almond Blossom Run stretches beyond its role in the Almond Blossom Festival or the blooms that collect in the trees.

The attraction is two-fold, said longtime ShadowChase Running Club member and Modesto Marathon race director Heidi Ryan.

(ShadowChase has partnered with the Ripon Chamber of Commerce to host the Almond Blossom Run.)

One, it is an oddity.

In an area saturated with 5Ks, half-marathons and marathons, the Almond Blossom Run tests runners speed and endurance over a mostly flat and fast 5-mile loop.

The race begins and ends at Stouffer Park.

“I think it’s great that they have different levels to challenge people and their abilities,” Moran said.

It also sets up the 2013 Central Valley race calendar, which includes two of the area’s marquee 5Ks – Rina’s Run in May and Rise. Shine. Give. Run race in August, both in Ripon. 

It all starts with that quirky, tradition-rich 8-kilometer race in late February. Over the years, Ryan said, the Almond Blossom Run has attracted 300-400 runners – a healthy draw for an event of its size.

Ryan anticipates an entrants list of similar size.

“I think Ripon has a lot of people that are passionate about running and therefore passionate enough to do something,” Ryan said. “It takes a lot of manpower to organize an event and there are enough people in that community to get behind something like this.

“Ripon is a nice community, because the people are active and willing to step up.”

Even the little people like Katelynn

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