Blue skies and gently rolling hills greeted about 230 runners in Chinese Camp on Saturday morning, as Sonora Sunrise Rotary Club, Tuolumne County Special Olympics and and the Eddie Zoma Running Club held this year's annual Orient Express Run.
Runners could choose from a 1-mile fun run or the 4-mile main event. Temperatures in the 40s kept amateur track stars cool as they bounded down Red Hills Road, looped around Sims Road and returned to Chinese Camp via Highway 120 to complete the 4-mile trek.
Creeks along the route shone bright blue under the sun, and a green carpet over the Red Hills provided an inspiring backdrop for the athletes. The relatively flat course also allowed runners of all ages and abilities to finish the race.
"It's a good race for families," said Carol Aardal, 47, of Arnold. "I saw little tiny kids here and inspiring 80-year-olds."
Among the children was Kahale Warring, 6, of Sonora, who took time off the monkey bars at the finish line to inform a bystander that he took fourth in his age group for the 1-mile fun run.
In the 4-mile race, Bill Brewer, 16, of Sonora was another youth who placed well. He came in third overall, in his sixth time running the event. A member of the Sonora High School track team, Brewer said he has yet to break any records.
If it weren't for his brother's birthday party that afternoon, Brewer said that after his run, he would have liked to "go home and sleep."
All proceeds from the race's $20 entry fee and $8 T-shirt cost went to the Tuolumne County Special Olympics. About 12 members of the Special Olympics team also competed in Saturday's race.
This year's total hasn't been tallied yet, but Special Olympics Area Director Karen Atkinson said last year the event raised about $2,500.
"All money stays local," Atkinson said. "It helps finance trips, transportation, meals, lodging and equipment."
Contact Genevieve Bookwalter at gbookwalter@ uniondemocrat.com.