Runners celebrate first post pandemic SB 5K

Life is beginning to return back to normal as thousands of people participated in the 28th annual Village Runner Independence Day 5K, the first race in the South Bay area since the pandemic.

The event took place on Saturday, July 3, which included the Red, White and Blue costume contest, followed by the 5K, and then the Firecracker Kids Dash for the Gold for kids ages 4-9. The race also raises money each year for various charities, including 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 that 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 the participants as long as they 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, MA, won first place of the men’s division at 14:58, 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 first place.

“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 ran the winning time of 16:44 for the women’s division, with Grace Zamudio, 27, of Santa Clarita, placing second at 17:16. Julia Dvorak, 19, of Columbia City, IN, finished at 17:51, placing third.

Morris hopes that now that the pandemic is slowly ending, “people 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. 

 Alongside the runners, several Southern California Olympians attended the race as honorees, 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 and try to 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.”

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Written by: Meghan Jacob

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