WESTFIELD, NJ — With a light show in the field at Tamaques Park, rock music playing and cheering from the sidelines, the atmosphere at the 5K race was as much celebratory as it was competitive Sunday night.
“There should be a wine truck,” a woman called out while running the first Night of Lights 5K.
That celebratory atmosphere is just what Westfield’s Sam Tooley intended when he organized the event to celebrate his late brother Jake, who died in a house fire at the age of 19 in 2017.
“This is just a testament to the town, the community that makes it up and really what we stand for,” Tooley said, shortly after the race. “It’s humbling.”
A 22-year-old from Westfield, Matt Russo, finished first with a time of 16:16, the results show.
The unofficial results Sunday night showed 694 runners finished the race, including the managing editor for TAPinto Westfield. The 500th runner to cross the finish line, he logged a time of 36:39.
Nearly 850 people had registered to run, 200 to 300 people volunteered for the event and another 500 supporters cheered runners on, Tooley said.
“To have Tamaques Park filled with 2,000 people, it’s a breathtaking sight,” said Tooley, who rode on the rear of the lead vehicle in the race.
The race lived up to its name as overhead lights from Westfield police vehicles and fire engines lit the evening and strobe lights from a stage within the park shined while the sun set. The Westfield Volunteer Rescue Squad was on hand.
Funds raised at the event will support the Tooley Legacy Foundation, whose mission is to give back local families when tragedy strikes, according to its website.
Olivia Broad ran with her son, Reed Bienstock, 13. Broad, who is from Westfield, said she runs daily and has participated in prior runs, including the town’s annual 5K Run and Pizza Extravaganza.
In addition to taking the opportunity to bond with her son, Broad said, she signed up to support the cause.
“We’re here to have fun and do the best we can,” she said just before the start. “We don’t usually run together.”
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at email@example.com; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh