NEARLY 200 RUNNERS took part in the inaugural Stockton Sleigh 5K/10K Run hosted by Mile Chasers Run Club this past Saturday.

Although the organizers promoted the event as a 5K/10K run, they encouraged the community to come run or walk with holiday treats, hot chocolate, merchandise and goodies, with a chance to be photographed with Santa Claus and The Grinch after the race.

The youngest runner in the race was 7-year-old Aaron Ambriz; the oldest was 78-year-old Julian Galapia.

“It [Stockton Sleigh] allows the community to come together and in a positive way that everyone can be a part of,” said Luis Leon, co-founder of Mile Chasers Run Club. “It doesn’t have to be a professional runner on a high level, it can be anyone that is interested in bettering themselves; and that’s why we are here.”

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Co-founded by Xavier Jimenez and Luis Leon, Miles Chaser Run Club started off in February 2022 as a group of runners who would meet every Sunday to run as a hobby.

‘We go out to the Bay Area, Sacramento, and we started throwing Sunday runs for the local communities to come out and join us,” said Leon.

The event had runners come in from Bay Area cities such as Livermore and even as far as San Jose. Marco Aceves, a San Jose resident, has been competing professionally for two years. “My friend lives in Stockton, and she invited me to this event. I had never competed in the Central Valley before, so I decided to do it today,” Aceves said. Aceves finished first in the 10K overall males’ category.

Harika Maddala is a photojournalist based in Stockton covering San Joaquin County for Bay City News Foundation and its nonprofit news site Local News Matters. They are a Report for America corps member and a CatchLight Local Fellow.