Claremont Cross-Country Boosters create virtual event as a substitute for beloved Claremont Village Freedom 5K


Courtesy of CXCP

The The Independence 5K website where participants can sign up and register themselves for events.

It is almost surreal that a bundle of proteins and genetic code has brought the complex and far-reaching machinery of human civilization to a grinding halt, changing day-to-day life on Earth for humans, as well as many other species affected by human activity. Yet, the reality of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the outbreak of the COVID-19 disease it has caused is abundantly clear to each and every Claremont resident. With shelter-in-place advisories present, countless citywide events have been canceled or postponed, one of them being the annual Claremont Village Freedom 5000 and 1K Kids’ Fun Run, a five-kilometer race which takes place on July 4 and winds through the Claremont Village and the Claremont College Consortium. With this wave of cancellations and disappointments also comes renewed efforts to stay connected and show solidarity through the internet. Although the Freedom 5K was canceled this year, the event lives on, virtually, under a different name, the CXCP Virtual Independence 5K.

The Independence 5K platform (found at this URL:, offers a 5K walk, a 5K run, a 50K bike ride, and a 1K fun run for kids. To participate in the event, one must simply navigate to the URL above, register themself, and post results. Participants are given the option to post race photos, download a bib, and to print a finisher’s certificate. The Independence 5K does not require any money from its participants, but there is an option to donate money which goes towards supporting many aspects of the Claremont High School Cross-Country Program (CXCP). Registration opened on May 5 and will remain open through the month of July. The race will be open from July 4 to July 31, in order to allow participants the freedom to complete the events on their own time.

The Freedom 5K, normally put on by the CXCP and the City of Claremont, is a social event that draws thousands of Claremonters, young and old, to try their hands — or rather their legs — at the 5000m course. Because the race is a major fundraiser for the CXCP, the team booster club was motivated to find another way to fundraise, so they created the Virtual Independence 5K, without the partnership of the city. Although according to booster club member Jeff Rhyne, the creation of the event was financially motivated, he added that the booster club wants the event to benefit the local community as well.

“We want this to be an event for the community, to emphasize getting out of our houses safely and responsibly in this pandemic,” Rhyne said. “Anybody who would like to participate is encouraged.”

Rowan Olijan-Rhyne
The author toes the (virtual) starting line before a run.

There is a race for everyone to participate in during this year’s truncated Fourth of July festivities: the young, the wise (as they prefer to be called), the runners, the walkers, and the cyclists can all go at their own pace for the CXCP Virtual Independence 5K. Made possible by the internet, the event is one of the countless ways citizens are able to maintain a sense of community during potentially exasperating periods of quasi-isolation. The virtual race photo wall and other such communal features of the site are truly an example of the togetherness the internet can provide during this trying time. In addition to the race’s inclusiveness and community focus, Rhyne emphasized the importance of physical activity, especially during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Exercise is great for our physical health, of course, but also for our mental wellbeing at this time,” Rhyne said. “So we’re hoping people will use the CXCP Virtual Independence 5K as a way to improve their physical and mental health.”

Rhyne and the CXCP Booster Club also noted that one of their aims was to approximate the usual July 4 community exercise program for those who are Freedom 5K regulars. One such regular, CHS junior Arlo Tanenbaum, plans to participate in the 50K bike ride and the 5K run.

“I’ve been participating in both the Turkey Trot and the Freedom 5K for as long as I can remember,” Tanenbaum said. “It’s sort of been a family tradition that my mom, my dad, and I have done, so I think this is a great way to continue that tradition in a different situation while still keeping to the same sort of run … I usually do the 5K run, but I’m not much of a runner; I enjoy biking a lot more. I wish there was a 50K bike ride every year.”

Tanenbaum shares Rhyne’s philosophy about exercise, and he has been exercising more during the pandemic because he has had more time.

Claremont citizens of all ages and backgrounds have surely had to forego many of their spring and summer plans due to the pandemic, and while this is a difficult and often frustrating turn of events, the CXCP Virtual Independence 5K stands to improve the mental and physical wellbeing of Inland Empire citizens. The event, in its attempt to allow for the replication of Claremont family tradition and to facilitate virtual community interaction, may offer just a shred of the mundane to Claremonters who — it is safe to say — are currently in dire need of it.