More than 1,500 people gathered at Townsgate Road in Westlake Village on Sunday to participate in the Senior Concerns Love Run.
The 5k and 10k walks and races raised money for Meals on Wheels, which delivers nearly 47,000 meals a year to seniors in Thousand Oaks and Newbury Park.
Soon before the race began, professional and amateur runners in the 10k run readied themselves at the starting line, retying shoelaces, adjusting wristwatches, stretching and joking with other runners.
Relatives and friends of runners photographed or videotaped the runners, who sprang out of gate toward a course that wound around the Westlake Lake.
Betsy Anderson beamed as she finished her first 5k race. Her husband, Paul Anderson, held a large sign that read “Go Betsy!”
She hugged him and wiped away tears. Anderson celebrated her 44th birthday Tuesday and wanted to overcome her defeatist attitude about running in a 5k.
“I didn’t think I had the body type or anything needed to do this,” she said. “I realize that so much of it is mental.”
Thousand Oaks resident Linda Hall sported a T-shirt that read “If you want to get in front of me … Get Drenched”
A longtime runner, Hall, 51, ran with her friend Lauren Akahlshi, 20, of Santa Barbara, who was running in her first 10k.
“This is not a competition,” Akahlshi said.
“Oh, yeah, this is,” Hall said, elbowing her friend. “This is a battle of the generations.”
Gigi Barcla, of Thousand Oaks, rallied her team, Run With Gigi. Most members of the group were women with school-age children.
“We get our kids to soccer, we get them on the team and toward their goals, but we need to do things for ourselves, too,” she said. “Running is my sanity, and I wanted to share that with other people.”
Stella Kuyumjian, 36, of Thousand Oaks, said running in the 10k was a small triumph toward reclaiming her life.
Until 2010, she had suffered massive seizures for more than a decade. She lost her job and driver’s license. After visiting specialists and taking medications, she had brain surgery, which stopped the seizures.
“I’m an artist, a photographer, and becoming a runner is just another adventure,” she said.
Ted Noller, 72, started training for long-distance runs in his mid-50s. He has won first place in his age category for the past 36 years.
“I’m going to keep running until I get my first second place for my age group,” he said with a laugh.
Ginger Roy, 68, won first place in the 65-69 age category.
“What I love about this event is that it’s a hometown event and benefits the people in this area,” she said.
Senior Concerns President Andrea Gallagher, said the Love Run is the organization’s second largest fundraiser.
“This includes people of all generations,” she said. “There are little babies in strollers to 80-year-old seniors in the races. A great way to bring awareness to helping homebound seniors is to raise awareness across generations so it’s not just seniors helping seniors.”
Michael Atkins, of Oak Park, participated in the 5k with his wife, Denise Atkins, and their children and grandchildren.
He said he was running to support his parents, who are in their 80s and beneficiaries of Meals on Wheels.
“When you get up into your 80s, you often don’t have the energy to make food and dinner for yourself, so this provides an important need,” he said More …

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