You Can Do This: Whiskeytown Relays


The annual Whiskeytown Relays is both a competitive event and a big outdoor party. The serious runners race very hard, while other folks don goofy costumes, go for a leisurely jaunt and catch up with friends.

About 80 four-person teams are scheduled to descend on Whiskeytown’s Brandy Creek Marina on Sunday, Sept. 20, for the 34th edition of the relays. There is still plenty of time to get signed up, whether or not you have a full four-person team.

Running events come and go. Even events that are popular for a time and seem to have a great deal of support often fade away before they turn 15 or 20 years old. The Whiskeytown Relays were a classic on the regional running calendar for many years. However, for a variety of reasons, the relays appeared to be on their last legs (sorry) earlier this decade. Participation was down. Relations with the National Park Service were not great. A less-interesting course replaced the traditional loop around the lake. The event seemed out of momentum.

Things started to turn around in 2002 when local dynamo Tori Parks took over as race director. She brought back and slightly improved the route around the lake. Just as importantly, she injected a much-needed shot of enthusiasm. Participation has doubled under her leadership, and she’s hoping to hit the magic 100-team mark for next year’s 35th running.

Fleet Feet Sports Sacramento is planning to bring no fewer than eight teams to the relays this year, according to team marketing director Dusty Robinson, a 1993 graduate of Central Valley High School. The 32 team runners plus assorted support personnel and family members will fill a bunch of camping spaces at Oak Bottom on the weekend of the race, he says. Robinson has found memories of the event from his days as a competitive runner at Central Valley and Shasta College, and he’s eager to introduce his Sacramento-based teams to the Whiskeytown area.

“It’s kind of a weekend to take our jerseys off and go have some fun,” says Robinson. “Many of our teams will dress up in costume. In many ways, it’s a week away from stressful racing, and it’s just about fun. It’s really about the commonality of running and socializing.”

Parks is thrilled to receive entries from the Fleet Feet teams, as well as a number of squads based in Chico and Reno. “It’s going to add some spirit and competitiveness to the event, which is neat,” she says.

The course covers 19.9 miles on paved and dirt roads, as well as a stretch of the Oak Bottom Water Ditch Trail. In order, the legs are 4 miles, 5.3 miles, 4.3 miles and 6.3 miles. That last leg is also the hilliest, so it’s where many teams assign their best runner (or the one who drew the short straw). Fast teams will cover the distance in about two hours. Teams that really want to enjoy the course and fun atmosphere will be out there for three to four hours. Buses provide transportation from the start at Brandy Creek Marina to the relay handoff locations, and back.

There are no fewer than 27 different team categories based on age, gender, family status, club status, etc. The cost is $100 per team, which is a good deal considering that every participant gets a T-shirt, lunch and abundant goodies. If your team is short a runner or two, or if you’re a single runner looking for a team, contact Parks at 515-6157 or and she will help you out. Click here for the website, which has many details, including a course map.

It’s worth noting that the Whiskeytown Relays, like all SWEAT Running Club races, generates money for college scholarships that the club awards to local students every year.

While the Whiskeytown race celebrates its 34th running, the inaugural John Lipsey Memorial 5K run is scheduled for 8 a.m. this Saturday at North Cottonwood Elementary School on Gas Point Road. Formerly known as the Salmon Run, the event now honors the memory of John Lipsey, who mentored countless middle school and high school runners in the area. He was a nationally respected track and field meet judge. He succumbed to a heart attack at age 68 earlier this year. Race-day registration costs $20. For details, contact race director Carri Longnecker at 218-1393.

shigley-mugshotPaul Shigley contemplates where the heck the summer went at his home in Centerville. You may contact him at

Paul Shigley

has been a professional journalist since 1987. For 12 years, he served as editor or senior editor of California Planning & Development Report, a statewide trade publication for land use planners, real estate development professionals and attorneys. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter or editor at newspapers in Redding, Grass Valley, Napa and Calistoga. Shigley's work also has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Planning magazine, Governing magazine, California Law Week, National Speed Sport News and elsewhere. In addition, he is co-author of Guide to California Planning, a college text and reference book, and is currently working on a book for the American Planning Association about the Bay Delta and California water resources. A graduate of California State University, Sacramento, Shigley has contributed to A News Cafe since 2009. He and his wife, Dana, live in western Shasta County.