By Helen Tuman
The annual Santa Cruz “Wharf to Wharf” race is the best-known race in Santa Cruz, but it is by no means the oldest.
Though 35 years of Wharf to Wharf is a long time, there is another race known for its dedicated runners that will soon celebrate its 66th year: the Cardiac Pacer 5-Miler.
The race has transcended time and become, like all good traditions, a combination of history and hearsay. The race is jokingly rumored to have been started by Kevin “Skippy” Givens, director of intramural and club sports at UC Santa Cruz.
“I began running the Cardiac in the late ’70s, early ’80s,” runner Jeff Arnett said. “I always remember Skippy being there. If he didn’t start it, we don’t know who did.”
The Cardiac Run happens twice a year, once in November and once in May. This year’s spring race will be held at the East Field House this Saturday, May 10.
The course has changed over the years. The race begins at the East Field House and then goes toward the library and up into the woods. It used to go up the Crown/Merrill hill, nicknamed “Cardiac Hill” by students, but due to concerns about campus preservation, the course has been modified and takes runners up the North Remote Parking Lot hill.
“The second mile [North Remote] is the hardest,” Arnett said. “Once you’ve survived that, it’s downhill.”
Though no clubs sponsor the race, it is frequented by some Santa Cruz Track Club (SCTC) runners and UCSC cross-country athletes.
“It’s an epic race,” said David Will, a senior cross-country club member. “Definitely a Santa Cruz race.”
The Cardiac Run is different from other races simply because it captures the essence of running races.
“In the old days races were simply running from point A to point B,” Arnett said. “No T-shirts or other prizes. It has the purity to it that races have lost.”
Givens recalls the race having anywhere from two to 100 participants. Across the 66 years, the average number of participants is around 10.
“One year there were only two people running it,” Givens said. “But I was still there with a stopwatch for them.”
The male and female winners each receive a bottle of sparkling apple cider and the rest of the participants receive a banana with their ranking on it.
“It’s a tough course,” Arnett said. “You really earn that banana.”
There is no pre-registration to partake in the Cardiac Run. Participants should show up at the East Field on Saturday morning with $5.
“I’ve been running for 40 years,” Arnett said. “And that’s still the race I look forward to.”