WESTFIELD, NJ — The man who brought Westfield the Night of Lights 5K is set to bring the town a markedly different event.

Downtown Westfield Corporation has hired Sam Tooley, owner and head coach of the specialty fitness center Alpha Performance, to head up a virtual Pizza Run this summer.

Last week, Tooley outlined for the DWC board how he intends to engage the community through online training and organize the annual Downtown Westfield 5K Run & Pizza Extravaganza in keeping with social distancing.

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“You want to get people emotionally charged up about this and kind of unite the town behind it,” Tooley said.

While participants will be running individually in the July 19 race, Tooley said, he will set up an online community to encourage training in the weeks leading up to the event.

“It needs to be a recurring message that’s sometimes hammered home to people,” he said.

Tooley said that when COVID-19 restrictions closed his gym, he was able to connect with his clients through online platforms, including with virtual runs.

While the 5K has traditionally been held on a Wednesday, Tooley said, the plan is to hold it on a Sunday to encourage more participation.

“That’s when most road races are,” he said. “The Pizza Run has always been an anomaly in that it’s been on a Wednesday.”

He also said that holding the race on a weekend day will present fewer obstacles, such as work, that could divert people from running.

“If we just give them the biggest window possible to get this done, it’s just going to be an easier go for them,” Tooley said.

The cost is anticipated to be $35 per person with funds benefiting causes that support the downtown.

“What we’ve been talking about internally is raising money for business recovery,” said Bob Zuckerman, executive director of the DWC.

Organizers are still deciding how to incorporate pizza into the mix.

“I would love for us to have that angle — run the race, go pick up a pie downtown, get it delivered,” Tooley said.

Email Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net |Twitter: @MattKadosh

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