16 Year Old Publicity Stunt Still Going Strong
California Academy of Sciences Prepares for 16th Annual Run To The Far Side©

SAN FRANCISCO (October 25, 2000) – Sixteen years ago, an exhibit featuring the cartoons of Gary Larson opened at the California Academy of Sciences during the Thanksgiving weekend. In an attempt to draw crowds to the exhibit over the holiday weekend, a two-person public relations team developed an idea to have a race through the Park offering free museum admission to the first few winners to reach the Academy of Sciences. Expecting only a few hundred interested runners, more than 3,500 runners and Far Side enthusiasts turned out for the first Run To The Far Side. When the cashiers’ cigar boxes literally overflowed with money, an Academy security guard walked around collecting cash in a brown paper bag. Today's race day registration booths are a far cry from those early days. The second annual Run To The Far Side attracted over 7,000 participants, and now in its sixteenth year, race organizers anticipate 10 — 14,000 will turn out for what has become one of the most beloved and light-hearted holiday traditions in San Francisco. Larson has always enjoyed a love of animals, particularly those in the realm of herpetology. First "discovered" by the San Francisco Chronicle, Larson has created hilarious sketches of animals who view life through a human lens (a line of tigers in a circus ring watch the ring leader dramatically firing a gun into the air… "He’s using blanks -- pass it on"), shared close relationships with scientists from the Academy who lent scientific advice to Larson to help him depict animals with some degree of accuracy (this, of course, was upended when Larson put a martini in their claws or holsters around their torsos). This friendship with the Academy of Sciences continues today as Larson lends a new cartoon for the Run To The Far Side each year. Larson is always given bib #1 and actually ran in the first two or three races, usually along side the Academy’s John McCosker. As Pam McCosker, one of the founders of the Race recalls that "one year a young woman spotted the #1 bib and exclaimed ‘Gee, you must have registered early to get that number!’ Larson admitted that he had a key role by designing the T-shirt. After the joking subsided he still could not convince her that he was, in fact, Gary Larson. ‘What would Gary Larson be doing in the back with us?’ she cried!" The 10K run and 5K run/walk continues to draw participants from all "walks" of life, from Olympians to costumed cows and eels, families, seniors, and anyone who loves to burn off a few calories after a Thanksgiving feast. Each year, dozens of race-goers go the extra mile and don Larson inspired costumes, such as a cowboy amoeba costume, and everyone takes home an official, albeit hilarious, T-shirt. The Run To The Far Side is the only race in the country where the prizes for the costume contest are bigger than the prizes for the fastest runners. Perhaps that explains why so many costumed participants spend months designing and constructing life-sized Larson recreations, some of which reach two-stories tall (last year’s first place costume winner was "Giraffe"). The Run To The Far Side would not exist without the masses of volunteers who turn out, rain or shine (and more often it’s rain), to pass out water to runners, distribute T-shirts, monitor the course and finish lines, and manage thousands assembled in Golden Gate Park. This year’s Run to the Far Side begins at 8:30a.m. Sunday November 26th, near the museum Concourse on John F. Kennedy Drive. To register prior to race day, call the race hotline at 415/759-2690 or visit www.calacademy.org. Fees from the event support research and education at the California Academy of Sciences.