Runners from the valley ruled the foothills in the annual Orient Express Run on a foggy, cold Saturday morning in Chinese Camp.
Mike Dean of Modesto won the overall championship, covering four miles in 23 minutes, 12 seconds. Kim Cloud of Turlock captured the women's title in 25:38.6.
"I'm really happy about it," the 33-yeard-old Dean said while trying to get his legs back after the race. "I didn't think I would run that fast. I went out fast and ran scared."
Dean had run the Orient several times without winning, and he very much wanted the title. He got it by 24.1 seconds over David Jigour Jr. of Coulterville (23:36.1).
"I couldn't hear (Jigour), but I could sense him," Dean said. "And I could see in the eyes of the (spectators) on the course that they were looking pretty close behind me."
Cloud, 27, had no such worries while winning her second area race in eight days. She captured the Copper Run in Copperopolis the previous Saturday, and won the Orient by more than a minute. The runner-up, Kim Rupert of Hillsborough, was well back in 26:50.2.
Rounding out the overall top five were Tim Wyman of Sonora, third in 23:49.3; Richard Johnson of Stockton, fourth in 23:59.5; and Summerville High School junior Jake Heldstab of Tuolumne, fifth in 24:16.3.
Before heading into the Red Hills, runners participated in the traditional singing of "America the Beautiful," at the start line. They were sent on their way by Tuolumne County running legend Eddie Zoma, who fired the starter's pistol at 10 a.m. sharp.
The Orient, hosted by the Eddie Zoma Running Club, is a fund-raiser for Tuolumne County Special Olympics, and is staged by the Tuolumne County Recreation Department and volunteers.
Jack Linford of Modesto won the one-mile preliminary race in 7:05.03, and Andreas Johnson of Stockton was the women's winner in 9:13.5.