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Runners conquer beastly trail to feed hungry

Posted: December 13, 2008 8:08 p.m.
Updated: December 14, 2008 4:59 a.m.
With dripping hair and muddy shoes, hikers and runners made their way back down a trail locals call "The Beast" to the trailhead Saturday morning after climbing to a 3,864-foot summit. The 100 participants braved icy breezes and cold drizzle to collect more than $2,000 to benefit a special cause.

"They're out here to conquer The Beast and to help conquer hunger in the Santa Clarita Valley," said Belinda Crawford, director of the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry. "We've seen a 60 percent increase in the number of clients (at the Pantry), so every donation helps."

For the second year, the Santa Clarita Runners Club paired with the Pantry to present The Beast Charity Run and Walk, with all entry proceeds going to the Pantry.

Athletes in the club and community members paid $20 to trek the 9.72 mile round-trip journey.

The trail begins at the edge of the "park and ride" lot off Highway 14's San Fernando Road exit in Newhall and is considered one of the toughest trails in Santa Clarita.

But for veteran runner Steven Watanabi, 55, of Saugus, the elevation, rain and wind presented no disturbances.

"Been there, done that - I've had worse, I've had better," he said. The trail was old news for Watanabi, but his participation and generous donation of $1,000 on top of his entry fee was certainly appreciated by Pantry volunteers.

Don Vulich of Valencia and his yellow lab River welcomed the rain; Brian Spangenberg of Canyon Country said, "It felt good. (The rain) actually kind of helped."

For others, the weather posed minor concern.

"We thought we were going to get pushed down the mountain by the wind," said Lizzy Nelson, a Saugus High cross-country runner who trained on half the trail with her teammates in the off-season.

"It was cold running through the clouds," said Tommy McGivan of the Canyon Country High School track team.

Despite the wintry weather, runners and hikers finished proudly and took home "I Conquered The Beast 2008" T-shirts.

Participants were pleased to help the Food Pantry.

"We're here to support the Food (Pantry)," said Peg Malone-Brown of Valencia, who walked the trail with friend Suzanne Garcia of Valencia.

"Our girls used to be in Girl Scouts and would get badges to volunteer there. It was amazing to see how they went from being cautious and guarded about it to not wanting to quit. It's eye-opening to give back," Malone-Brown said.

Don Mclean, race co-director of SC Runners, said that using the event to donate to the Pantry was "the best Christmas gift (SC Runners) could give to anyone."

"There are a lot of hungry people out there," he said. "These are tough times. It's heartwarming to see friendly people join together to help. Plus, it's healthy."


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