Under clear skies and with a sense of patriotism while celebrating Veterans Day, 50 runners from Menifee and surrounding communities took part in the second annual Menifee Veterans Memorial 5K Saturday morning.
Dozens of spectators and Marines from Camp Pendleton cheered on the runners, who started at the corner of Menifee Road and Holland Road and followed a challenging course through the streetes of the Hidden Meadows development, over a hilly trail at the base of Bell Mountain, along a flat stretch of Garbani Road and finally back to the finish line at Wheatfield Park.
Paul David, owner of Elevate Fitness studio in Menifee, was co-organizer of the event with Rob Johnson, senior manager of community improvement for the city.
Funds raised through race entry fees and donations will be used for the development and maintenance of the city's Veterans Memorial, located at the corner of Menifee Road and La Piedra Road on the edge of Wheatfield Park. A ceremony honoring veterans will be held there Sunday at 10 a.m.
Seth Salerno, a 22-year-old from Corona, was the overall winner of the race, finishing the course in a time of 22 minutes, 17 seconds. He was followed closely across the finish line (22:24) by 50-year-old Wayne Cottrell of San Clemente, a 5K regular who competes nearly every week.
Salerno, who said he is preparing to enter the U.S. Army, personally thanked for their service to our country each Marine who lined the area near the finish line. He then turned back down the street and ran alongside other runners as they approached the finish line, offering encouragement.
"It was challenging going up that hill," said Jonathan, who recently finished first in his age group in the Temecula Fun Run. He has been running races since the fourth grade.
Top finisher for the women was 35-year-old Chauntal Marchal, who covered the course in 24:58. The race included two men running in the 70-79 age group, Tom Rothaar and Tom Thurman.
Denis Nurmela, 49, a Menifee resident who began running as part of a weight loss plan, is an Air Force veteran who was happy to take part in the Veterans Day event.
"The whole sense of community is so important," he said. "There's a feeling of 'Let's buy local and keep our business here.' Events like this help foster a feeling of togetherness."
The last runner to cross the finish line had good reason to be a bit slower than the others. Jessica Shaw, 33, ran the entire course pushing a stroller that carried her 5-month-old daughter, Jaynee.
"I thought this would be a piece of cake, but I didn't know about the hills. That made it kind of tough."
It was a breeze for Jaynee, however. She slept the entire race.