Today at Berkeley Lab

Ready for the Runaround? Race Tips From Past Winners

By Theresa Duque


On your mark, get set, go! The 38th Annual Runaround — Berkeley Lab’s hilly, 3-kilometer (1.86-mile) footrace — takes place Friday, October 16. To help you put your best foot forward, we’ve put together some race-ready tips from last year’s winners.

How should I train for the Runaround?

Running fast takes years of practice, so it’s no coincidence that the winners of the 2014 Runaround were competitive runners in high school and college. Stephen Whitelam, a staff scientist in the Theory Facility at The Molecular Foundry — whose finishing time of 9:46.3 made him last year’s fastest man and overall winner — ran about 60 miles a week when training with his high school running club in Dunblane, Scotland, and at the University of Oxford. Jennifer Doyle, a mechanical engineer in the Engineering Division who won the women’s division by finishing at 10:56.9, ran close to 50 miles a week as a top runner for MIT’s cross country and track team.

Although the demands of life after college can make it difficult for anyone to squeeze in a workout here and there, Whitelam and Doyle still manage to run most days of the week. When ramping up for the Runaround, Whitelam trains on the challenging trails of Tilden Park, and Doyle increases her weekly mileage by running, instead of driving, to her Oakland home from work.

But what about those runners and walkers who end up in the middle or the back of the pack? How should novice runners train for the Runaround, especially if they’re cramped for time or motivation? Doyle recommends walking around the Lab site when you can. “We have a wonderful site to go walking around at lunch, and lots of stairs to climb. The great thing about running or walking is you don’t need equipment, and you don’t need to go somewhere special to do it.”

If you’re new to running, or trying to get back into shape, Whitelam suggests that you first try out a training plan to see if it works for you. “Don’t take any specific advice literally. Experiment a bit. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. And whatever you do, make sure your training is enjoyable so that you can sustain it,” he says.

When’s the optimum time to eat before a race?

Because the Runaround takes place at noon, a time when most employees take a break to eat lunch, many first-time Runaround participants may wonder, “What should I eat, and when?”

Doyle likes to have a bagel with peanut butter and honey and a banana at least two hours before a race. She also recommends hydrating the days leading up to the race and drinking water a couple of hours before lining up at the start line. Whitelam’s go-to pre-race meal consists of a couple of slices of toast for breakfast, and half a banana about an hour before the race. And because eating is a personal thing, both runners recommend trying what you think would work for you. “Practice it first. Don’t do anything new before a race,” Whitelam advises.

Should I warm up before the race?

If you’re new to the Runaround or to running in general, you might be wondering if you should warm up before the race. Some runners like to do “hill repeats” (repeated loops of running up and down a short but steep hill) shortly before the Runaround, but our 2014 winners take a more conservative approach to race prep. Doyle and Whitelam make sure their legs are loose and warm before a race by jogging for about 10 to 15 minutes about a half hour before the race. They also do a couple of strides, a drill that requires a burst of speed over a short distance (for example, 100 meters).

I’m not a fast runner, and I might walk the race. Can I still participate?    

The Runaround is a fun event for anyone, runners and walkers alike. Participants are not required to pay a registration fee, and all finishers, whether they run or walk across the finish line, receive a free Runaround T-shirt. And if you’re still not convinced that the Runaround is for you, take this piece of advice from Doyle: “You don’t have to be out there in front of the pack to enjoy the Runaround. Just do it because you want to spend lunchtime walking with your friends and co-workers or love free T-shirts. There’s something for everyone.”

I finished the race. How did I do?

Official finish times for runners and walkers are posted on the Runaround website a few weeks after the race. If you want your time to be recorded, make sure you fill out your finisher card (volunteers will hand it to you as you breeze through the finisher’s chute). And turn in the completed form to get your free T-shirt.

Stephen Derenzo, a retired senior scientist in the Life Sciences Division, developed the Runaround’s timing and results system in 1980, and continues to maintain it despite changes in hardware over the years. He still heads the timing team and will announce the start of the race as he’s done in years past. If you are interested in becoming a timer or volunteering for the Runaround in general, contact Anytra Henderson at

The 38th Annual Runaround will take place at noon on Friday, October 16. There will also be an informal bike-around at 11:30. The start line for both events is at the Firehouse (Building 48).