Redondo Riviera Village runners celebrate first post pandemic South Bay 5K

The Firecracker Kids Dash.

Patriotism, South Bay style at the Red, White and Blue costume contest.

Redondo Beach Councilman Nils Nehrenheim and Mayor Bill Brand.

UCLA’s Shae Anderson welcomes runners to the first South Bay run since the pandemic. Shae will be competing in the 4x400m relay at the Tokyo Olympics.

Over 2,000 runners lined up at the start of the 28th annual Village Runner Independence Day 5K.

Thomas D’Anieri, 23, crosses the finish line with a winning time of 14:58, narrowly outpacing Daniel Harrigan-Cota, 26.

Story and photos Meghan Jacob

The 28th annual Village Runner Independence Day 5K offered further evidence that post pandemic life is returning to normal. The race was the first held in the South Bay since the start of the pandemic a year ago, March.

Though traditionally held on July 4, this year’s race was held on the third to avoid conflict on Sunday evening’s two redondo firework shows. 

The 5K was preceded by a Red, White and Blue costume contest and the traditional Firecracker Kids Dash, for kids ages 4-9. The race also raises money for the Redondo Beach Education Foundation, and other local schools and running programs.

“We’re actually getting a lot of new people who never used to run who are running in this 5K,” race director Mike Ward said. “A lot of people had a lot of time on their hands due to the pandemic, so they wanted to start working out more.”

Following Los Angeles County guidelines, there were no mask mandates for participants who were vaccinated.

“We understand that most of the South Bay is vaccinated at this point,” Ward said. “So since this event is entirely outside, basing wearing a mask off the honor system seemed appropriate.”

Thomas D’Anieri, 23, of Wellesley, Maine, won first place in the men’s division, with a time of  14:58, narrowly outpacing Daniel Harrigan-Cota, 26, of Montclair (15:00) and Stewart Harwell, 37, of Redondo Beach (15:15).

“Crossing that finish line knowing I won felt amazing,” D’Anieri said. “I felt like in that last home stretch I had a lot more left in me than I thought, I decided to use it, and I’m so glad I did.”

D’Anieri had been running 40 miles a week in preparation for this race.  He had one goal in mind — to win.

“The pandemic made it harder for me, and I know many others, to train and find the motivation to run as much, for various reasons,” D’Anieri said. “But I thrive off the energy of events, and it was definitely easy to do that here.”

Calene Morris, 27, of Torrance was first in the women’s division, in a time of 16:44, followed by Grace Zamudio, 27, of Santa Clarita (17:16). Julia Dvorak, 19, of Columbia City, Indiana, finished third (17:51).

Morris hopes that now that the pandemic is slowly ending, “people will feel more inclined to participate in races now that they are starting again.”

“It can be so hard to get motivated to run by yourself, so when you go out for a run with so many people here to encourage you, it makes it a lot easier and way more fun,” Morris said.

Several Southern California Olympians were honored at the race, including Steve Lewis, winner of two gold medals in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and a gold and a silver at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

“Nowadays, although I don’t run nearly as much as I used to, I help coach my daughter because she runs track at Redondo Union. I attend these types of races and events when I can,” Lewis said. “It takes a lot of commitment to get out so early in the morning to run, so I’m impressed by all the runners out here today.”

Shae Anderson, who will be competing in the 4x400m relay at the Tokyo Olympics, was also one of the honorees for the race.

“I love the charities this race is helping raise money for, but I also just really enjoy seeing regular people come out and enjoy themselves at races like these,” Anderson said. “Prioritizing your health and staying fit, especially during the pandemic, can be difficult so I’m impressed by everyone coming out to the race.” ER

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