Running may be considered an individual sport, but for many of the approximately 2,000 people registered to participate in the 35th annual Moonlight Run & Walk at the Palo Alto Baylands on Oct. 11, it's a family activity that brings them and their loved ones closer together.
The Weekly spoke with four families — the Rodgers, the Clarks, the Tynefields and the Kirbys — about the many ways that running helps their respective families stay not only fit, but connected. From training together before the race, to cheering for each other at the finish line, to celebrating together afterward, each family offers a different perspective on what makes the experience special to them.
Jack, Tom and Jayne
Jack and Tom Rodgers have a classic twin dynamic: One of them is very athletic, the other is more fond of academics.
Both of the 8-year-olds play soccer, for example, but Tom, who enjoys playing the game just for the fun of it, is in a less competitive league than Jack, who loves sports.
While they each have their own separate interests, running is one of several things they enjoy doing together, along with their mom, Jayne Drake. Together they've participated in Mountain View High School's Turkey Trot, an annual 5K walk/run held on Thanksgiving morning. And last year, Jack participated in the Moonlight Run with their mom.
This year, the twins are both running the 5K race at the Moonlight Run with their mother.
A former high school cross country runner, Jayne introduced running to her sons when they were about 4.
"When I was 40, I thought I needed to get fit again, so I started running," said the now 46-year-old. In those six years, she's competed in 5Ks, 10Ks and three half marathons. Two years ago, she finished a marathon in Santa Cruz.
Drake does most of her training for races on the weekends and brings Jack and Tom along with her. They usually run about a 2-mile stretch around their neighborhood in Mountain View, but they also occasionally run the Stevens Creek Trail.
"That's always a nice place for us to go to because there are just walkers, cyclists and pedestrians but no cars," she said.
According Jayne, Jack and Tom have come a long way in the last four years.
"At the beginning, they'd say they were tired, even after just running the first few steps," said Jayne, adding that they've since improved in endurance and positive attitude.
Although this year marks Tom's first Moonlight Run, he said his favorite part of any run is usually shortly after the starting point, when the crowd starts to spread out and he has more room to run. "I like when I'm not around like 50 billion people accidentally bumping into me," he said. Ahead of Moonlight, Jack is already looking forward to the end, "as soon as I see the finish line, I just sprint as fast as I can," he said.
The Tynefield family
As a family of six, it can be tough getting all the Tynefields together in the same place at the same time. But come Oct. 11, they will all be running and walking beneath the stars during the Moonlight Run & Walk. John Tynefield and his teen sons Gray, 17, August, 13, and Mason, 15, will be taking on the 10K race while his wife, Dara, and 7-year-old son Harrison plan to participate in the 5K walk.
Dara said it took a bit of convincing to get Harrison — who said he is not a big fan of running — to join the family activity.
In the past, the Tynefields participated in the Mountain View High School Turkey Trot as a family, as well as in the Summer Scamper at Stanford University, which benefits Lucile Packard Children's Hospital.
John, the most avid runner of the family, has participated in Moonlight Run three times in the last nine years along with other runs in between. It was his idea to get everyone involved in this year's race at the Baylands.
"I'm ramping my running back up, and so I've just been trying to motivate getting everyone out for the (Moonlight) race and it worked out for our schedules, which is complicated," John said.
This year's Moonlight Run also is significant for the family because it may be the last opportunity they have to participate together: Gray is a high school senior this year and will be heading off to college next fall.
In the weeks leading up to race night, each member has his or her own informal training routine. For Mason, he trains as part of football practice, August gets his training in during cross country and the others take jogs around their Los Altos neighborhood. One thing they all plan to do in the hours before race night is rest, keep hydrated and make sure to eat something nutritious.
After the run, Dara said the family will likely celebrate together with ice cream.
Debbie & Bryan Clark
"We just love doing things together," said Debbie Clark, who is registered to run the 5K race with her husband, Bryan. The Mountain View couple, now both in their 60s, have participated in the Moonlight Run & Walk for the past 11 years. They also participate in the Bridge to Bridge run in San Francisco, and recently completed the Bridge of the Gods Half Marathon in Cascade Locks, Oregon.
"We started running (together) back in about 2006," said Bryan, adding that he used to run in high school and college but later became "a couch potato." He said that running was a good way for him and his wife to get moving again.
Although they are no strangers to traveling for races, the local Moonlight Run is one they look forward to.
"It's a really neat race because it's on a Friday night and it's a nice way to start off the weekend," he said.
To train for races, the pair said they go out to Rancho San Antonio Preserve in Los Altos and run trails there every other day. Debbie also wakes up each morning at about 5 a.m. to walk 3 miles through downtown Mountain View, and oftentimes, her husband joins her.
"I always look forward to the races," Bryan said. "I go find people in my age group and my adrenaline gets pumping."
The Clarks have no plans of slowing down any time soon. They both said they intend to keep running for as long as they can.
"I guess if we can't run, we'll just walk it," Debbie Clark said.
The Kirby family
Kathryn Kirby, her husband and their four children are an athletic bunch. They all participate in a range of sports, including soccer, competitive swimming, cross country running and volleyball. Come Oct. 11, Kirby and her two oldest sons, Lachlan and Isaac, plan to compete in the Moonlight Run & Walk: Kirby, an experienced long distance runner and Greene Middle School cross country coach, will be running the half marathon, Lachlan the 10K and Isaac for the 5K run.
"I want to run the long distance, but apparently I'm too young," said 13-year-old Lachlan, who runs cross country at Greene Middle School.
"I won't let him run the half marathon yet," Kirby explained. "I know he could do the distance but he's right in the middle of his cross country season, and I feel like he might be really tired from it and deplete himself a bit for his races coming up."
Her guidance is not solely from the perspective of a parent, but as a runner herself and coach. In addition to leading Greene's cross country team, she is the co-founder of the Palo Alto Pacers youth running club for kids in fifth through ninth grade.
Issac, 14, plans to stick to the 5K run, a distance that he's already used to running as a member of the Palo Alto High School cross country team.
This is the family's second year in the Moonlight Run and Isaac and Lachlan both said they enjoy the cooler weather conditions and the look and feel of the scenery at night.
For their mom, however, the run is empowering.
"As a woman, to be able to run out in the Baylands at night and feel safe, it's just such a cool experience," she said.
On race night, the Kirbys will stretch and warm up together before splitting up into their respective races. The good thing about running different races, according to Kathryn, is that they can be at each other's finishes.
"It's really fun, because we have three finishes to watch, and we all support each other," said Kathyrn, adding that she appreciates events like the Moonlight Run because they bring her family together.
"It's nice for me to stay attached to my teenagers through running," she said.