It’s 7:30 a.m. on Sat. April 15, the day before Easter, and already the usually quiet walkway in front of the Cupertino Library leading towards Community Hall and City Hall is bustling with people setting up tents and tables. Inside Community Hall, pink tape directs people through a maze of waiting areas to a table where they can pick up their packets for the upcoming event, while volunteers rush around to make sure that everything is just right. The volunteers and event coordinators for the annual Cupertino 5k Bunny Run have been here since 5 a.m., dedicated to making this event, which gathers not only people from the Cupertino community but also from around the Bay Area, a special day in celebration of family.
The 5k Bunny Run holds a special place in Recreation Coordinator Jeff Ordway’s heart. When he first started his job, the event was one of the first major responsibilities he was given, and the 2017 Bunny Run marks his 10th year coordinating the event. He’s watched as over the years, more and more people come out to support the community as new features were added to the event.
One of these new additions is the kids’ fun run, which occurs after the 5k race. This gives younger attendees, who may not necessarily be able to finish a 5k, a chance to participate and be “just like the adults.”
Aside from being a simple fun event, the run has a charitable cause. The city of Cupertino’s partnership with Charity: Water was a newer addition in 2012. 2012 was the City of Cupertino’s 50th anniversary, and the coordinators were wondering what they could do to make the event stand out that year, to add something to it. Instead of auctioning off an item, they decided instead to use the funds to support a cause through sponsoring a water well in the developing world.
To do this, they partnered with Charity: Water, an organization whose mission is to bring clean water to everyone in the world. Since 2012, the Bunny Run has raised enough money to provide over 2,000 people with clean water.
Above all, Ordway says his favorite thing about the event is watching families come together to accomplish the run.
“I love seeing families run together, whether it’s a grandmother running with her grandchildren, or a husband and a wife running together pushing a stroller with their newborn baby,” Ordway said. “It’s just fun seeing everyone out together, having fun as a community.”
It’s Trysha Movilla’s first time at the Bunny Run representing Cupertino Parks and Recreation, but she can already tell that it’s a special event. Movilla’s booth is loaded with flyers for every activity imaginable, from the Cupertino Sports Center fitness schedule to junior lifeguard training. She says that their goal is to make sure that there’s always something for everyone.
“[We want to] make sure everyone feels that they belong somewhere, and that there’s this strong sense of community within Cupertino,” Movilla said. “It’s a lot easier just because we’re a lot smaller [as a community] […] just making sure that there’s something for everyone no age range is left out.”
After watching the setup in the morning, Movilla was really impressed with how much organization was put into the event to make it happen. She thinks that events like these have an important role in unifying the Cupertino community, just like the Cupertino Parks and Recreation.
Having participated in the Bunny Run for 5 years, canine deputy Jeremy Jones, has not only seen the event evolve over time but has been continuosly inspired by the warm atmosphere of the event.
With his dog at hand and his family joined to his hip, he made way through the booths located outside the Cupertino library.
The city of Cupertino is one the biggest areas of jurisdiction for the Santa Clara County office, therefore whenever an event such as the Bunny Run occurs, the sheriff’s office gets involved. Jones works in the canine unit which means he works with dogs, training them to seek out narcotics or explosives. However, for Jones it’s more than just work, he finds it fun to be part of an event that reinforces the importance of community.
“Once we get out here and see all the kids having fun, everyone having fun, you just draw into it,” Jones said “We are working in a work capacity, providing security, but were also having fun and enjoying everybody’s arua and the fun filled atmosphere.”
In fact, the members of the Sheriff’s office who participated in the Bunny Run enjoyed the experience so much that they hold a similar event inspired by it which focuses on children, the Heroes Run. It happens to be the exact same course as the bunny run, but instead of bunnies, all the children dress up as their favorite super heroes. For the children’s entertainment, the police department has a helicopter drop down as well as having their large Swat vehicles make an appearance.
Having the event revolve around the children is no surprise. Jones’ favorite aspect of such events would have to be seeing young children enjoy themselves with their families and community.
“You’ll get to see about 100 to 200 kids running around the field […] they see that all the adults do it, and it’s basically [showing] the evolution of people, you see what your parents do and now you get to do it,” Jones said.
He especially enjoys seeing everyone dress up for the event, as well, getting in the holiday spirit. But the craziest costume he’s seen in all his years here was the man who showed up this year in a full-body gray bunny onesie. When the man walked by, Jones even asked for a picture with him.
Guided by a motorcade, first place runner Dylan Sean sprints down the home stretch. His time: around sixteen minutes, making his mile time somewhere in the 5 minute mark. Although Sean was the top finisher at the race, it might come as a surprise that this was Sean’s first 5k run in a couple of years.
Sean ran during his time at Los Gatos High School and Brigham Young University. Today, Sean continues to hone his running skills by running five miles in the morning, and 10 miles every afternoon.
Despite being well-equipped for long distance running, even Sean has to overcome pre-race nervousness from time to time.
“I’m always a little bit nervous,” Sean said, “because you never know who’s going to show up, and who’s going to surprise you.”
It’s minutes before the race, and dozens of runners are gathered near the starting line in preparation for the race. Some are warming up with light jogging, while others stand patiently, awaiting the event to begin.
Standing in the plaza of the Cupertino Civic Center is Anke Kalaiah and her son.
Kalaiah first heard of the event from her friend who wanted to participate in the Easter-themed event. She is a seasoned runner, having participated in the annual Turkey Trot, Santa Run and 408k run.
Kalaiah places a great deal of emphasis on exercise — her fitness regimen typically involves visiting the gym five to six times a week, though she doesn’t follow the daily routine in preparation for the 5k event. While some train extensively to attain the coveted first place medal or to beat their personal records, Kalaiah simply comes to admire the atmosphere, enjoy community of runners and spend time with her son.
“I like doing it with my son, because it gets my son more into exercising,” Kalaiah said.
As people began to appear at the end of the street, pace quickening as they made their way down the last stretch of the run, the man in charge of recognizing all finished runner announced their names and encouraged the crowd to cheer.
One face, after another, all male, until a pair of cherry cheeks with a swinging ponytail showed up.
Cristina Rivera was the first female participant to show up at the end of Torre Avenue. As she crossed the finish line, her name was called out, earning an eager response from the swarm of people gathered along the street.
“It felt really good, it was a nice long stretch into the finish line so it was really cool to have the crowd lined across, it gave me a lot of really good motivation,” Rivera said.
At the end, finishing the run as the first female stunned Rivera into an unexpected accomplished feeling, for going into the 3 miles, she was unsure of the shape she was in. She ran in college and was simply trying to keep the post running hype in her life.
It was Rivera’s second time participating in the Bunny Run and she had liked it so much the first time around, she decided to come back for another go.
By the Library Field, scores of children and their parents are gathered in anticipation of second race of the day: the Kids Fun Run. The route encircles the Library Field — not the distance of a 5k by any means — but still a challenge which prompts the screams and excitement from a mass of toddlers.
After a staff member commences the start of the race, the wave of boys and girls disappears in a blurred frenzy. In mere minutes, the race comes to a close, with children panting and giggling with glee as they pose for for their proud parents’ cameras.
After the race, two young girls, Amelia and her sister Leila, are still full of enthusiasm and energy.
“I didn’t even cry,” Amelia said, as she proudly pointed to a scrape on her knee.
Running certainly isn’t new for the girls; they’ve run in several races previously. The Big Bunny Run, however, was a first for them. A change, to be sure, but a welcome one.
Small heads bobbed up and down as minuscule legs carried the children’s bodies through their course, and two year old Gabriela was making her way rapidly down the designated path.
When asked if she liked running, Gabriela had a simple, to-the-point response: no.
She was part of a large group seen at the Bunny Run: children three through seven years old, who were instructed to to run two laps around the field outside of the Cupertino library. Those who were two or younger would run only one while being accompanied by an adult.
Gabriela’s parents, Natalie and Andrew, decided to engage both Gabriela and her older sister Megan, four years old, in the Bunny Run in order to introduce them to a healthy lifestyle, one which included exercise.
But, in the end, children are children and Megan had one response when asked what her favorite part of the event was.
“Lots of candy, last year there was no candy,” Megan said.