So Pas Mainstay, Tiger Run, Supports Students, Community

The start of the annual Tiger Run is always a spectacle in South Pasadena. This year will be the 21st year the run has been raced, which benefits the South Pasadena High School Booster Club. Photo by Henk Friezer

Runners, walkers and wheelchair-racing competitors of all ages will take to the winding tree-lined streets of South Pasadena on Dec. 1 for the 21st annual Tiger Run 5K/10K Run/Walk. The Tiger Run, a history-rich staple of the city, benefits the South Pasadena High School (SPHS) Booster Club and 100 percent of the proceeds benefit the school’s extracurricular activities, clubs and teams. The event features top-three, age-division awards by gender, a certified course, race pictures, refreshments and entertainment.

The day kicks off with a pancake breakfast at 7:00 a.m. The 5K and 10K start at 8:00 a.m. on Diamond Ave., just south of Monterey Road. According to organizers, the 5K portion of the run is fast and flat while the 10K covers the same ground as the 5K with the second half involving a challenging and hilly course through South Pasadena’s Monterey Hills. For kids under 10, there’s the Tiger Cub 300m fun-run on the high school track at 9:30 a.m. The day will also feature raffles, giveaways and a health and wellness fitness expo. Pre-registered competitors are guaranteed a T-shirt while same day registers will receive a shirt while supplies last.

Tiger Run co-chair and SPHS Booster Club vice president of marketing Bill Buckley said the run is an extension of what South Pasadena does best: being fun for families and inclusive of everyone with a small-town feel. Last year’s event brought out more than 600 competitors.

“It has such a great hometown vibe,” said Buckley. “As you’re running, you see people on the route and you recognize them since we’re such a small community.” 

Numerous groups will be volunteering to make the day a success. The South Pasadena D.U.D.E.S. will have a live band playing at the 5K finish line. The SPHS Pep Squad, SkillsUSA, ASB and various SPHS sports teams such as water polo and soccer are also lending their energy to the day.

The idea for the Tiger Run was conceived in 1980 by Marty Parkinson, whose youngest of four children graduated from SPHS the year before.

“I saw something on TV about a young kid running and I got the idea and decided to start the race,” Parkinson shared with The Review. 

A football player while growing up and a South Pasadena resident since 1968, Parkinson got involved with the SPHS Booster Club when his youngest son, Mike, played football for SPHS. At the time, the Booster Club only supplemented football. When Mike switched over to track and cross country, Parkinson saw a need for other sports to be supported in a similar fashion to football. As Booster Club president, he worked to open the Booster Club for all clubs.

Parkinson recalled about 200 people coming out to compete in the Tiger Run in 1980, and it continued to grow from there. His wife Carla Parkinson and all their kids were also involved in volunteering and participating, truly making it a family-centric event from the start. Parkinson went on to lead the event for about 10 years and founded the All-City Track Meet for the SPUSD elementary schools and SPHS bingo as well.

“When you start something, you don’t know how it’ll turn out,” said Parkinson. “When it’s successful like that, you really have a good feeling about it.”

The Tiger Run eventually petered out after the 1990 event, as the organizers’ children graduated and work demands called previous volunteers away to other commitments. Enter Therese Molina, who moved to South Pasadena with her family that same year and thoroughly enjoyed competing in the Tiger Run 5K.

“I thought, ‘Oh my god, this is the best! This town is wonderful!’” said Molina. “Then it was the last year they did it. I was disappointed.”

When Molina’s eldest daughter of four entered SPHS in 1995, she joined the SPHS Booster Club and got to thinking of restarting the Tiger Run. Joining forces with fellow SPHS parent Cari Guzman, Mike Parkinson (then SPHS track and cross- country team coach) and then SPHS cross-country coach Don Wielenga, they rolled up their sleeves and reignited the flame to start the race once more in 1998.

“It was the four of us who were like, ‘let’s do this!’” recalls Molina, who went on to help direct the event for 12 years before it was handed off to current event director Jose Zavala of Aztlan Athletics.   

Today, the SPHS Booster Club raises funds to support over 50 clubs, activities and teams so students can enjoy a wide range of athletic, artistic and academic experiences. Funds raised through the Tiger Run, bingo, sponsorships, and donations help pay for equipment, facilities, team travel and more.

For those interested in training sessions before race day, the Aztlan–Joltsport Showroom at 719 Mission Street is offering two workout distances for all levels every Wednesday leading up to the race. Warm-up is at 5:30 p.m. and the run is at 6 p.m. at distances for 3 miles and 5 miles. Refreshments and snacks are provided. For more info on workouts, email

The Tiger Run 5K and 10K run/walk is $40 and the Tiger Cub run is $20. The pancake breakfast is $5. Add $5 for the walk-up registration.

Walk up registration is at the South Pasadena High School Cafeteria, Friday, Nov. 30 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 1 from 6:30am to 7:45am. The cafeteria is located at 1401 Fremont Ave. The cafeteria entrance is located on Diamond Avenue, just south of Monterey Road.

For event parking, free parking is available on streets surrounding the SPHS on Monterey Road and Fremont Avenue. The Metro Gold Line is located two blocks north of the start. There is no parking on Diamond Street or the south side of Monterey Road.

Sponsors for the SPHS Tiger Run include the City of South Pasadena Aztlan Athletics, Michelle Downing/Compass, First Financial Credit Union, the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District, the YMCA, Golden Shore Medical and Sport Clips Haircuts of South Pasadena, Naked Juice, Yakult, Topo Chico and Mama’s Brick Oven Pizzeria.

For more information, contact event director Jose Zavala at (626) 755-8489, email jose@aztlanathletics or visit