5/10K Will Rogers Run Local
By LAUREL BUSBY
Running on the Fourth of July has been a tradition since 1978, and Thomas and Dalena Hathaway have become a central part of that tradition.
For eight years, Dalena has coordinated the Kids’ Fun Run, while Thomas has taken an active lead on the 5K and 10K races for the past 10 years.
“For me, it’s always been a labor of love,” said Thomas, who has frequently run both long races as well as more intense runs, such as one to the top of Mt. Baldy and another on Mt. Wilson. “I grew up running. I’ve always had an appreciation for the sport. I always appreciated the time people take to excel. I take pride in organizing it.”
Added Dalena, who used to run the 5K, “For me, it’s really a couple of things. When you reap the benefits of something for several years, I think it’s time to step up and say, ‘Of course, I’d be happy to do this.’ The second thing is the children. I love the children.”
Thomas, a general contractor, agreed, “They are a hoot.”
The children’s 9:30 a.m. Fun Run, which is in its 24th year, is not a race, but a participation event that allows young children to join the fun of race day. Often a parent or sibling is also running in the 5K or 10K, and with the Fun Run, children 10 years old and younger can join the action too.
Each of the approximately 400 young runners receive a race bib, t-shirt, flag, and participation ribbon. While one child does break the finish ribbon first, at the end of the almost half-mile run, they all get the joy of crossing the same finish line as the runners in the longer races.
“They’re so excited; my heart goes out to all of them,” said Dalena, who was born in New Mexico and grew up in Libya and El Paso.
The earlier 5K and 10K events are fun too, but also competitive, and the courses distances are USA Track and Field certified, which means that distance is precise, Thomas said. Serious runners can be certain that if they get a good time on the course that it’s an accurate measure of their skills.
This wasn’t always the case. About eight years ago, the courses were measured, and both were more than 400 feet short, so runners actually thought their times were better than they were.
Since then, the race committee has modified the courses according to the specific requirements for certification.
“We spend a lot of time to make sure the race is of a high caliber for the serious runner,” said Thomas, who noted that the committee who oversees the race includes about 20 people who now meet on Wednesday mornings in Caruso Village’s Community Room. “We want the race to represent a high standard of excellence.”
This means that in addition to a precise distance, the organizers try to ensure that the race starts precisely at 8:15 a.m., so runners who have timed their warm-ups will be at their best when the race begins.
In addition, volunteers work to place fast runners at the front, so they won’t be slowed by more casual runners. These volunteers are only a small portion of the approximately 100 volunteers needed for the 5K and 10K races, while a dedicated group of Dalena’s friends returns each year to manage the needs of the Fun Run.
The volunteers, who may donate only a few hours of time or a substantial number, allow the events to be locally produced, instead of requiring a professional race organizer to run them. Some vendors are hired to do specific things, such as the 5K and 10K race timing, but the vast majority of work is done by volunteers.
“The event still has a very local flavor,” said Thomas, who moved to Pacific Palisades from Rolling Hills in 1973, when he was 17. “But we can only do that as long as we have support from the residents.”
Since the race is in its 42nd year, the race founders have been gradually stepping down from their volunteer work. After this year, Dalena will be handing over the Fun Run, so she is searching for someone new who would like to take charge.
For now, Thomas plans to continue organizing the 5K and 10K, but he is also searching for more volunteers to help. The needs are quite substantial for the longer races, which may have about 3,000 runners combined.
Volunteers set out signage, do crowd management, and address safety issues. They can also help pre-race by passing out brochures, installing banners, or setting up the course. About 30 people are also placed along the course during the race in case of emergencies. Approximately a half dozen volunteers are later needed to take everything down.
“The regular volunteers are a fun group of people, but we need to pass on some of the responsibilities,” Thomas noted. “It’s a challenge to find enough volunteers.”
However, the dedication of volunteers means more race proceeds can go to The Palisades Will Rogers 5 & 10K Run Foundation, who gives the money to the Optimist Foundation, who works in partnership, to choose various local nonprofit organizations who work with youth. Last year about $35,000 was provided to various charities.
The Hathaways, who purchased their Palisades property in 1991 and raised their two children, Sheridan, 28, and Starr, 27, there, hope that this community spirit continues.
If interested in volunteering, email Dalena at email@example.com.