On Feb. 23, 2020, the horn sounded in front of a “Brea 8K Classic” banner and the runners advanced, jogging at a steady pace, as friends and family members lined the Brea Mall course in support. Volunteers from BOHS and the Brea community stood ready with water and cheered on the hundreds of racers.
But this year’s race, which begins today, will look markedly different due to COVID-19: The annual Brea 8K fund-raising tradition will be conducted virtually throughout the month of February.
This year, instead of throngs of racers hustling up and down Birch Street, runners can compete around parks, in Brea neighborhoods, along the beach, and even in their backyards. To log time and distance, runners will track their race with an app like RaceJoy, or any fitness device, and log it into the Brea 8K website.
In order to compete, contestants must complete the 8K run between Feb.1 and Feb. 28. The deadline for registration is Feb. 21 at 11:59 p.m. Once registration is complete, participants receive a t-shirt and medal at BOHS on March 5 and 6.
The $25 entry fee supports BOHS programs like Global IT Academy, academic scholars, orchestra, band, color guard, and the vocal music programs, according to the Brea 8K website.
Although COVID-19 prohibits an in-person race, runners may create virtual groups or teams to complete the 8K with. On the Brea 8K website, participants can create a unique team name and include as many people as they want on their team.
The Bailey Fam Team, comprised of six family members from Brea, is participating in this year’s virtual 8K. Mark Bailey, senior, said, “I’ve been in the race the last two years. It’s always a ton of fun and it’s a good time to see some of my friends. This year, due to the distanced nature, I am joining to help the fundraiser as a lot of the programs that the 8K supports are struggling in these tough times.”
“The 8K is so important to our [band] program because it’s our largest fundraiser by far,” James Charrette, BOHS band director, said. “Our [band] program would look very different if we did not have that support. It essentially pays for us to have a high-quality band staff with professional music teachers that really helps enrich our students and enable our program to be successful and competitive.”
30 years ago, 68 participants raced through Brea’s streets, but now, thousands of participants, spectators, and sponsors from around Orange County participate to raise funds for BOHS. The race has become a yearly tradition for many families, including long-time race participant Pam Valenti, activities director and math teacher.
Valenti and her family have been running the race for the past few years. She recalls her past 8K races: “All three of my kids have done the route in the womb, in a running stroller, the kids’ race, and [my] two older [kids] have run the full 8K. It is incredible to see the entire Brea community come together to support our program.”
Despite the change in venue this year due to the pandemic, some runners, like J.P. Simental, senior, are putting a positive spin on things: “There is something lost in not being there physically, but there is always a good feeling to help out in something so big.”