The race goes on: Belmont’s annual Water Dog Run continues with a unique format

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Local Belmont resident Fred Ehlers celebrates finishing his run.

This year, from Oct. 10 to 25, the City of Belmont is hosting its third annual Water Dog Run, a community fundraiser that supports local education. The format of this year’s race had to be modified, but organizers are determined that even a pandemic won’t slow down this popular community event.  

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic still raging, race organizers had to figure out how to hold the event without endangering the safety of runners and organizers. The unique plan this year involves having participants record a run or walk individually within a two-week window and report their finish time. With options of a 5K, 10K, one-mile kids run, or a one-mile dog (FIDO) run, participants can run on their own, with a pet, or with their families. 

County-wide health restrictions have been in place since June. Since San Mateo County is in the red tier, it was impossible to host this event in the regular format—with all runners gathered on the second Saturday in October. To comply with these regulations, community organizers decided to adopt a flexible format. Race organizer Stephanie Davies emphasized that this was the best option possible so that participants could still enjoy the event while taking the proper precautions to remain safe. 

“The start line of the race? Your front door. The end? Wherever you finish your run,” Davies said. 

Belmont community members agree on the value of the Water Dog Run to Belmont, no matter what the format. Nevertheless, under the circumstances, organizers are not complaining. Started by the Belmont Chamber of Commerce in 2018, with a goal to raise funds for education, the Belmont Water Dog Run is now its own non-profit corporation.  It has provided over $16,000 in grants and support back to public and private schools, foundations, and city education programs in its first two years.  With 325 runners registering this year, organizers are confident that the race will continue to benefit local education programs this year.  Belmont city manager Afshin Oskoui emphasized the race’s immaterial benefits as well.

“It’s a great way to bring the community together. It’s innovative. It’s a great way to appeal to families, including pets. You don’t have to be an athlete or competitive. Everyone can participate,” he said. 

During this time of separation, the race is also shaping up to be a great way to reconnect with people, with social distancing in mind.

“When we are able to connect with our neighbors, when we are able to share experiences, when we are able to do things like the Water Dog Run, we’re able to connect and bond with each other in different ways, which brings joy to the community,” said Belmont-Redwood Shores School District Superintendent Dan Deguara. 

One enthusiastic participant is Belmont resident Fred Ehlers. He has been on a fitness journey, losing over 200 pounds over the course of several years, and strives to commit himself to challenging, high-level running events. 

“The Water Dog Run provides an opportunity to run, interact with the community, make new friends, see old friends, and enjoy this wonderful city,” Ehlers said. Is he running this year? “You bet!”

This year, one may not feel that excitement from physically standing on Ralston Avenue on the race day. However, despite the ongoing pandemic and the unique format of this year’s race, the 2020 Belmont Water Dog Run is still off to the races. 

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