Jose Zavala will tell you it takes the collaboration and involvement of a city, local agencies, and dozens of volunteers to keep events like the Tiger Run sustainable.
It takes all that and more, including the dedication of Zavala himself, to continue building on the success of the popular 5K/10K event that supports the South Pasadena High School Booster Club, just celebrating a quarter of a century in existence.
Zavala, the race director and resident of the city who puts on runs of this type throughout the Southland, is especially attached to this one because, well, it feels as comfortable as an old shoe. Secretly, he might say its his favorite.
“Having it endure for more than 25 years involves being able to operationalize and transition the baton to the various people from different departments, SPHS Booster Club members, and volunteer groups,” he said, talking candidly about what it takes to put it all together the first Saturday each December. “The Tiger Run has evolved from having a few hundred runners to almost 800 in the past couple years. COVID did have a long path in its trajectory, but the implementation of a virtual run hybrid program help keep it afloat in 2021. The event brought almost 300 participants despite the pandemic, and this could have not been done, unless we had adaptability to the new normal.”
The official attendance for this year’s event was 794 registered participants, breaking all attendance records, making Zavala believe a 1,000 figure when the next one comes around isn’t out of the question.
The Tiger Run is part of Aztlan Athletics, owned by Zavala, as a formal operating partnership with the school’s Booster Cub. “Our plan is to bring an elite field to the Tiger Run through sponsorships that funds other events I operate,” he explained. “Seeing exceptional performances is what inspires me to keep going in this business. I am thankful for what running has brought me, including being a proud parent of two division 1 athletes that went through the South Pasadena School District system.”
Zavala says there is not much of a difference between the Tiger Run and the multitude of other events his company manages. “We primarily focus on mission driven organizations that are dedicated to community wellness while also raising funds to support the various causes in the respective communities being served. The Tiger Run does have a special endorsement in that it has been embraced by the city as an important community wellness yearly event.”
He’s especially proud of the co-sponsorship with SPHS “as this will pave the way for further sustainability and growth,” said Zavala. “Building a relationship with community and the run through endorsements from the city, nonprofit agencies, and volunteers is what makes this event special.”
Aztlan Athletics is at the helm of more than 25 run/walk wellness events in Southern California, including nonprofit partnerships with the LA Parks Foundation, the Union Rescue Mission, the YMCA of Metropolitan, LA River State Park Partners, the Salvation Army, the City of Montebello, the City of Lynnwood, the City of Bell Gardens, LA 84 Foundation, Homeboy Industries and more.
“Our most important partnership was in 2016 with Active San Gabriel Valley (ActiveSGV) when we embarked on putting together the largest Open Streets festival in the United States,” explained Zavala, noting that It included a half marathon and 5K that started in South Pasadena and finished at the City Of Hope and Monrovia. The event brought over 80,000 people, covering seven cities. Zavala’s operation now co-operates two open streets events every year.
Saturday’s 5K route in South Pasadena covered the flat portion of the city, traditionally lending for a wider participation from novice to experience runners, where the 10K portion took participants up challenging hills, including Via Del Rey, a test for any runner.
Those taking part in 25th annual run/walk received a commemorative t-shirt and medal and came away knowing they supported South Pasadena High, around since 1906, carrying the motto: “Scholarship, Leadership, Strength and Fair Play” – all traits that give the school a solid reputation both academically and athletically.
“Coming together to celebrate wellness and community, to supports the various programs at the high school is the motivating factor as to why people register,” Zavala insisted. “In recent years, people from outside the city, including employee wellness programs and running clubs, enjoy attending as they enjoy the route and amazing views.”
Which, of course, features South Pasadena at its best, up close and personal.