Belmont community helps make Waterdog Run ‘pawsible’

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Kiana Hinkson

A participant of the kids’ 1-mile race runs by Twin Pines Park.

As runners gathered at the starting line, a vibrant rainbow greeted the participants of the fourth annual Belmont Waterdog Run. Both volunteers and runners gained a greater sense of community by working to promote education and wellness through this non-profit run. 

At 7:15 a.m., participants running in the 10K began their race. Fifteen minutes later, the 5K took off, and the dog and kids’ 1-mile race both followed later in the morning. All races started and finished at Twin Pines Park. 

Many members of the Belmont community look forward to participating in the race every year. 

Samantha Crowther, a freshman on the Carlmont cross country team, has been running the Waterdog Race since she was in sixth grade.

“I’ve been doing [the race] for a couple of years with my dad. I thought it was fun. It was a nice course,” Crowther said.

The kids’ 1-mile race is an opportunity for younger community members to participate in the Waterdog Run. 6-year-old Calvin Jacobson participated in the 1-mile run this year.

Douglas Kim, former Belmont mayor and co-founder of the Waterdog Run, believes that participants like Crowther and Jacobson are part of what makes the Belmont community different.

“When we started this race four years ago, I had people saying nobody runs in Belmont. Kids don’t run. Their parents don’t run. But I think Belmont is unique. We have a ton of people signing up for this thing,” Kim said. 

Jono Sison, a senior at Carlmont, runs in the 10-mile race while listening to music. (Kiana Hinkson)

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the 2020 run to go virtual and lose support. Some restaurants could no longer sponsor the Waterdog Run due to financial instability. The race barely raised enough money to cover its production costs. The pandemic continued to cause challenges for the 2021 run. 

Stephanie Davies, co-founder and race director of the Waterdog Run, dealt with the uncertainties of COVID-19 while she was planning the race.

“In normal times when we are not dealing with COVID-19, this race takes about eight to nine months to put together. This year, we just got the OK from the city to do it in June. So [we’ve] only had four months to put it together,” Davies said.

Some of the changes made to accommodate COVID-19 included staggered start times and a mask mandate for participants under the age of 12. Goody bags filled with snacks, water, and a Waterdog Run sticker replaced the large breakfast which awaited runners in past years.

The Waterdog run uses the money it makes to support wellness in schools, including Carlmont. COVID-19 also impacted the mental health of many students.

“Wellness is more than just running and bouncing around. We want to help schools do programs that help promote fitness, healthy living, even mental health,” Kim said.

Volunteers hand out water to thirsty runners during the 10K. (Kiana Hinkson)

Volunteer and senior at Carlmont High School, Penelope Heith, noticed the distinctive involvement of Belmont residents in the Waterdog Race.

“There are a lot of people who sign up for the race, and it’s 6 a.m. [the day] after a football game; Nobody’s slept, but everyone is just excited to come here and work to help the community. It’s really nice to see that,” Heith said. 

Police were stationed throughout the course to guide runners. Student volunteers stood at water stations to ensure that runners stayed hydrated. Volunteers were also stationed at Twin Pines Park to direct runners to the finish line and hand out medals and snack bags.

The help of volunteers made the Waterdog Run possible, but the participation of Belmont runners made the race a win for the community.

“Even during these weird times, we have 500 runners. And that’s a big success story,” Kim said.