Santa Monica police officer Erika Aklufi topped former Olympic runner Zola Budd Pieterse to break the course record in the women’s 10K at the 17th annual Keep LA Running charity event at Dockweiler State Beach in Playa del Rey Sunday, July 11.
This year’s race saw three of the four fastest times recorded by women, with Aklufi bettering the 10K record of 35:43 by almost a minute at 34:50. Budd, a 1984 Olympian and two-time World Cross Country champion, finished second in 36:41, edging out third-place finisher Anne Marie Byrne of San Diego by two seconds.
Budd also served as honorary starter and spokesperson for Keep LA Running, which raises funds for a variety of charities. Event organizers said entries surged 42 percent to 1,553 participants this year.
Aklufi, who had run a 5K on the track in San Francisco the previous day, bolted to an early lead that she never relinquished.
“I had been running my best in 2005-2006, then stopped to become a police officer. Then, I was injured,” said Aklufi, who finished sixth overall among men and women. “I’m now starting to get back to running good times, like before my injuries. I’m proud of this effort today.”
In the men’s 10K, Ugandan native and current Culver City resident Tonny Okello won in 30:50, well ahead of early leader Brian Livingston. In the earlier 5K races, Michael Chavez of Fullerton, who ran the mile in four minutes flat while at UC-Santa Barbara, won in 15:16, and Brenda Martinez of Los Angeles was the first woman finisher in 17:21.
Budd, a South African native who is perhaps best remembered for her celebrated collision with Mary Decker Slaney in the 3,000 meters at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, said she had returned to Southern California in hopes of keeping her comeback in master’s racing going. Now a mother of three, she said she was hoping to run somewhere in the 37 minute range at Dockweiler.
“I’m very happy about my effort today,” Budd said. “This is my best time in the last two years. The weather today was perfect and the course was very good.”