It’s Friday, a cool December night. Hundreds of people gather on the start line of the Lights of Love 5k at the Mueller Hanger. Race participants take their mark as an announcer counts down the last five seconds before the race begins. “Go!” The runners are off.
As runners pass by the start line, they high five Ronald McDonald–he is the reason this race exists. The Lights of Love 5k helps raise money for the Ronald McDonald House, a nonprofit organization that provides housing for families who have a young child at the hospital with a long term illness.
“I think the entire event is just really well organized and it’s for a great cause,” Maya Messinger, a racer, said. “I think it’s really great that through this organization, families are able to unite and spend the holiday together.”
The night sky is illuminated with bright holiday lights that dress the neighborhood houses. Runners of all ages fill the streets, enjoying the soft glow of the string lighting.
Many runners have their own Christmas accents to express their excitement for the holiday season– santa hats, elf costumes, and green and red frilly tutus dot the crowd. Families of the Mueller Community stand outside their houses cheering on the 5K runners.
Marching bands, Christmas carolers, and bagpipe players perform popular holiday classics along the length of the course, adding to the spirit of the season. Throughout the race, the hum of bells fastened onto various runner’s shoes jingle quietly.
The finish line comes into sight. Runners sprint the last one hundred meters of the course and cross the finish line. Each race participant high fives Ronald McDonald again, ending the race the same way they began. They breathe heavily, their breath white against the chilly night sky.
“I saw a 90 year old man crossing the finish line and it was just really inspirational to see someone so dedicated to running,” senior Julie Tapia said.
At the conclusion of the race, participants regroup back at the pavilion to catch their breaths, reunite with those they came with, and enjoy the festive atmosphere.
A DJ is stationed at the back of the pavilion, whipping up some upbeat tunes, the entire floor vibrating with intense sound. A few people build up the courage to bust some moves, creating a dance floor in front of the DJ. Across from the dance floor, race participants treat themselves to cake and other sweets, a reward for completing the 5k. Children stand in line to meet Santa Claus, parents’ cameras flashing. Despite the cool weather, the toasty bodies and joyful faces warm the pavilion.
“I liked seeing everyone in such a happy mood after the race. So many people were dancing around and having a good time,” junior Rosa Galarza-Mireles said.