Seasoned runners, easy-going walkers, and everyone in between took to the streets of Boyle Heights Saturday morning in celebration of the annual Boyle Heights 5k Walk/Run and Munchkin Fun Run, a short race for children, on closed city streets.
The race began at Mariachi Plaza, where competitors young and old were eagerly stretching and warming up for the race. The route would then take runners south down Boyle Avenue, west on Whittier Boulevard across the 6th Street Bridge, and would then loop back the same way. Dozens of classic cars flanked the sidewalks of First Street, and served as a welcome sight to runners once they crossed the finish line.
According to the Boyle Heights 5k Walk/Run Instagram, over 250 children and parents registered for the Munchkin Fun Run and over 1,000 registrants reserved a bib to run in the 5k.
A few minutes before the childrens’ race, Marisol Gonzalez and her daughter, Hayley, 7, stood to take a selfie at the starting line. Gonzalez said she doesn’t run often, but wanted to support her young daughter during the race.
“Let’s try to finish it and not give up. Even if we get tired,” Gonzalez assured her daughter.
Hayley said she practiced a jog-a-thon at her school, and despite not winning, it motivated her to keep trying. When asked about her stamina, she didn’t seem to worry about it.
“I’ll just keep running and say, ‘I got this.’ I have to do this for my father,” the young lady said.
As the clock struck 8:00 a.m., hundreds of young children and their parents sprung into action and began their one-mile route. Many started at a full sprint, and some paced themselves at the start with a look of determination in their eyes. It wasn’t long before some young runners came vaulting back up Boyle to collect their medals.
Before the main event began, Francisco Rivera, Cindy Rivera, and their son, Michael, 10, were planning their pacing along the route. The youngest had never ran a 5k, and opted to run with his marathon-seasoned parents to challenge himself Sunday morning.
“We haven’t done it that much since COVID, but we’re definitely runners,” Gonzalez said.
The Rivera family all expressed excitement to finally be able to run over the 6th Street Bridge, and even came all the way from Ontario to run in Boyle Heights.
A few minutes after the 5k began, high speed runners of all ages began trickling onto Whittier Boulevard with the bridge in sight. It wasn’t long before the majority of the participants flooded the street, all smiling, some looking focused, but almost all were enjoying the carless streets of the neighborhood.
At Mariachi Plaza, local students Javier Perez, 17, and Donna Castañeda, 16, caught their breath after finishing the race side-by-side. It was their first 5k and Castañeda said the roughest part of the event was coming back from the western end of the 6th Street Bridge.
Perez said his favorite part was finishing it, but hinted that a future marathon wasn’t out of the question.
“We felt relieved because we made it,” Castañeda said.
Longtime Boyle Heights resident Maria Quiroz, 73, quietly stood along Whittier Boulevard, just before the 6th Street Bridge’s arches began. She was quietly watching race participants of all ages zip by.
“I love to watch because it reminds me of my daughter and my son. It brings up good memories for me,” Quiroz said, who attributed their love for running to what kept them out of trouble growing up.
“For me, it is a promise for the future when I see people doing this,” Quiroz said. “The young people who exercise, they’re doing something good and they start thinking better for their future.”