An event for all ages and athletic levels, Baldwin Park’s 18th annual Pride of the Valley 5K race beckoned participants from near and far Saturday, for a morning of competition and fun.
The course started at Morgan Park, passing through nearby streets and finished at the park. Attendance was up by nearly 200 people this year, to about 900 participants.
“I think the word’s out – it’s a fun race and very fast and flat,” said Manuel Carrillo, director of Recreation and Community Services for Baldwin Park.
“This course has not changed so you can measure your improvement year after year.”
As with previous years it was a fast race, with the shortest time coming in at 14:33 by Aaron Sharp, 32, from Port Hueneme. And the fastest female time was clocked at 17:07 by Zamzam Sangau, 25, of Tennessee.
Although the number of competitive runners was high and could be seen warming up prior to the race with serious intentions of beating their own records, the 5K event welcomed novice runners, walkers, children, teens and senior citizens. The course also served as venue for a bicycle component for the first time.
“A 5K is short for a bike but it’s still fun for a first-timer,” said Efran Moreno of BikeSGV.org, a local cycling group working with Baldwin Park and neighboring cities to advocate a regional bike plan.
“It’s a great event to ... feel that joy of riding a bike again like when you were a little kid.”
And there were plenty of first-timers in all categories, the youngest jogger being just more than 18 months old in the Little Tike Trot, a children’s run before the official race.
The High School Road Runners component brought teens from all over the Valley, many of them experiencing a professional race for the first time.
Baldwin Park High School sophomores Giovanni Monrrear, Cristian Trejo and Ricky Ma all said they relished the thrill of the race but especially enjoyed the social and physical aspect of training leading up to the event itself.
In the past, the Pride of the Valley run has been the race venue for several young participants who have gone on to become athletes at Division-1 schools and even the Olympic trials.
But even older generations got their chance to realize the so-called “runner’s high.”
Irma Garcia, program coordinator in the Department of Recreation and Community Services for Baldwin Park, has been training a group of active senior citizens since June in preparation for the run/walk. Many were first-time participants, one even using a walking device.
“[Training] helped me a lot with my health,” said Anna Tisnado, a resident of Baldwin Park for more than 30 years. She also attended the Saturday morning walks with Mayor Manuel Lozano in preparation for the race. “I’m losing weight and the relationships are very good.”
Chanting, “Senior Power! Senior Power – Si, se puedes!” the group pumped themselves up before heading to the starting line.
“Another chapter of my life,” said Rose Lamcheck, another first-time participant and senior citizen. “And it’s an achievement. It’ is a test for me.”
With such a large turn-out, and one that has continuously grown over the past five years, the Pride of the Valley 5K has come a long way from its humble beginnings 18 years ago.
“There were 75 of us when we first started,” said Lozano, who has run in all but one of the 18 years the race has taken place.
“I’ll never forget that.”
The event was started during the tenure of then mayor Fidel Vargas and all record-taking was done by hand.
Now the Pride of the Valley 5K event uses sophisticated “chip-timing” that provides an exact record of each runner as they cross various points in the course.
Runners Ben Campos of Rowland Heights and Gilbert Ramos of El Monte have run the course 16 years in a row. Like many of the avid runners, they intended to beat their times from last year.
“That’s the first thing I told him, ‘I beat my last race time,’” said Campos with satisfaction.