“I’m not a runner, but I’m doing this for him,” Block said, while doing warm-up stretches before the race.
Zehner and Block were two of nearly 1,500 participants in Sunday’s third annual Downtown Dash, a 5K run and walk through the heart of Glendale to raise money for stroke prevention efforts. Stroke is the second-leading cause of death in the San Fernando Valley, officials said.
Last year, about 900 people took part in the three-mile run-and-walk event hosted by the Downtown Glendale Merchants Assn., who donate all proceeds to the Glendale Adventist Medical Center.
In its first two years, the race raised almost $100,000 to support community awareness and stroke prevention programs at the hospital, and this year’s race was expected to bring in more than $60,000, officials said.
“I’m amazed by the turnout and excited for a great day,” Morre Dean, president and chief executive of Glendale Adventist, said at the event’s opening ceremony.
At about 8:45 a.m. Sunday, the race participants — many donning purple or blue race T-shirts stating “I dashed to fight strokes”— lined up in front of the Alex Theatre. Mayor Frank Quintero shot the starting gun, officially beginning the race, which weaved through the downtown area, including a sprint through the Americana at Brand before ending back where it started.
Event participants ranged from experienced runners training for next weekend’s Los Angeles Marathon, who finished the three-mile course within about 12 minutes, to those walking at a quick pace. Some entered as individuals or with friends or family, while others entered as large teams of several dozen or more.
Twelve-year-old Katie Miller, a seventh-grader at Rosemont Middle School, entered the race with her uncle and mother.
“They wanted to come down and race each other,” said Katie’s mother, Laura. “So it’s a competition.
For the first time, the race also featured a one-mile “kiddie fun run” and a “family fun bike ride,” where parents were encouraged to take advantage of the closed-off streets and bike with their children.
“The idea was: You have the roads closed, you might as well have a bike ride,” said Colin Bogart, a liaison with the nonprofit Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, who is helping Glendale become more bike and pedestrian-friendly.
Marc Stirdivant, a senior analyst with city’s Community Services & Parks department, and Annette Vartanian, an administrative analyst with the Community Redevelopment and Housing department, held a friendly competition to see who could raise the most money for the event. Together they raised more than $2,600.
“A lot of people at City Hall didn’t know about the event,” Vartanian said. “We got a lot of people in the city excited.”