runners
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Runners who take part in the Ipswich 5K chase down Argy the gorilla.

In any competitive footrace, the goal is to chase, and hopefully overtake, the leader. In one Massachusetts 5K, however, that leader is wearing a gorilla suit.

Each year, at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning in April, 300 to 400 runners gather at the YMCA building for the Ipswich Family YMCA "Chase the Gorilla Down Argilla" 5K. At first, it seems like any other race. But when the athletes cross the starting line, they aren't chasing fame, glory or a hefty grand prize; they're chasing "Argy," a local police officer in a gorilla suit whose identity is carefully guarded.

The Ipswich "Chase the Gorilla Down Argilla" 5K hasn't been around for long; the first race was run in 2006. But the 5K has quickly become an important event in the community. Local YMCA administrators came up with the idea for the race and decided that "gorilla" rhymed well with "Argilla" (pronounced "ar-JILL-uh"), a prominent road in the town. The event has become the most popular of several quirky races held in the area, including the "Beat Beethoven 5K," where runners try to finish before the end of Beethoven's 31-minute 5th Symphony, and the Rowley Poker 5K, where runners receive playing cards during the race and compete for the best hand at the finish line.

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While all these events provide fun for participants and their families, they also serve as fundraisers for the Ipswich Family YMCA, a branch of the YMCA of the North Shore. According to its Web site, the organization is "committed to the values of caring, honesty, respect and responsibility" and "provides all children, adults and families, regardless of income, with opportunities to develop a healthy spirit, mind and body." So if you like good times and good causes, read on to learn more about the Ipswich "Chase the Gorilla Down Argilla" 5K.