FAIRFIELD — Five-year-old Anthony Ruiz has a message for Michael Jordan: Maybe it is about the shoes.
The young runner credited his fast finish Wednesday in the 37th annual Doug Butt Run at Laurel Creek Park to what he wore on his feet.
“My shoes are really fast,” Ruiz explained.
That’s counter to famed former professional basketball player Jordan’s wisdom in an ad that the sport is “not about the shoes.”
The Fairfield event, named for the late distance runner and physical education teacher in the Fairfield-Suisun School District, attracted hundreds of youths and was about running and all that can involve.
Fifth-grader James Snyder and his sister, third-grader Lauren, who wore 100-mile club T-shirts that mark their running goals, talked strategy and turf before their run.
“You want to stay back,” Lauren Snyder said of running in the race. Save your energy for a burst of speed near the end, she said. James Snyder said, “We just keep a good pace. It gets harder when you get to the cement.”
The green grass of the park, lined with red traffic cones and flags for the event, dominated the scene that included an authentic starter’s pistol to send about 300 runners off in their respective races. The runners had help from “rabbits” – members of the cross country team from Fairfield High School, who ran at the front and end of packs of runners to keep them on course.
“It’s awesome that the community does this and we can help out the young runners,” said Angelo Untalan, 16.
Teammate Lupe Reyes, 16, ran in the Doug Butt Run as a youth and remembered how she learned about competing – and that other people liked to run as much as she did.
Brian Purcell, coach of the cross country team, said the rabbit role high school runners undertake is no walk in the park.
“There’s always that one kid who’s really fast,” Purcell said of rabbits staying ahead of younger runners.
Aileen Butt, whose husband Doug died at the age of 67 in October 2012, remembered his taking the “rabbit” role at the race and how runners made it their mission to beat him. She recalled his devotion to fitness.
“When he didn’t run, he’d bike or he’d walk,” Aileen Butt said.
The NorthBay Elite Futbol Club has put on the event since budget cutbacks ended the Fairfield-Suisun School District’s participation. Aileen Butt said she’s glad for the club’s role. Mani Salimpour, director of coaching at NorthBay Elite, said some 15,000 fliers passed out about the event helped spur the strong turnout.
“We really got the word out,” he said.
Word from Kahlid Walker, 16, of the cross country team for Fairfield High, is about running’s role in athletics.
“You’ve got to do it in every sport,” he said.
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or email@example.com.