Chico >> For the second year in a row, the annual Run for Food race in Chico set a record.

The five kilometer run and walk saw 5,368 people participate in the 9th annual event.

There were 300 more people than last year, Jesus Center Assistant Director Rich Young said.

As Young watched the participants finish the course, he said the Jesus Center has seen a great response from the community.

Everyone who is either participating in the race or volunteering is having a joyful experience, Young said.

During Run for Food, which benefits the Jesus Center, people made their way through a 3.1-mile loop at Bidwell Park’s One-Mile Recreation Area.

Shelly Brantley, who was decked out in a purple feather boa, a cascade centerpiece-turned hat, and a cape made out of about two dozen of her race bibs, was in attendance to commemorate her 50th birthday.

Although she’s participated for five years, this year was "extra special,” she said.

"When I saw it on the calendar, I thought, ‘I can go big with this one,’” Brantley said.

As participants waited in the mid-40-degree weather,family and friends squeezed together to pose for photos. Some danced to music, while others hopped around as a pre-race warm-up.

On Thursday, Christy Spade, 36, of Yuba City, was with her parents Loren and Trish Dunlap. A new member, Spade’s son, was experiencing his first race from the comfort of his stroller.

The Dunlaps, who have lived in Chico for 45 years, have attended all nine races, and Spade partakes in the family tradition.

Spade said she has so much to be grateful for and she also runs the race because it serves a great cause.

A group of four women with blue and green adornments in their head smiled and chatted waiting for the 9 a.m. start. Among them was 28-year-old Liz Fuller, who is home after spending the past four years in Chile.

"My beautiful family has done this walk for many years and I’m super excited that I get to be here to share this awesome day with them,” she said.

Ann Marie Barrett, who was with Fuller, said Run for Food is a beautiful way to start the day.

She said she is grateful for everything she has and hopes that participating can help the less fortunate.

The concept for the Jesus Center, which has been around for 30 years, was originally to feed people, but the organization has transformed, Young said. Now, the center not only serves 10,000 meals a month, but also provides shelter for women and children and a clothing outlet, among other services.

The community’s participation in the yearly run helps the Jesus Center make a difference in the life of people who are struggling, he said.

For many, the event has become a family tradition before their Thanksgiving feasts, and it’s not uncommon for participants to be from out of the area.

"We see families with 30-plus people getting together and many make their own shirts,” Young said.

Some people in attendance were from Portland, and one group was visiting from Virginia.

Seasoned and young runners and walkers, and even four-legged participants hit the pavement with enthusiasm. Some groups dashed out after the countdown reached one, while other strolled through the loop while chatting.

"Remember it’s not about winning,” one woman told a group of kids, who looked eager to bolt.

At the finish line, sweat-drenched 19-year-old Ben Albert said he’s been participating in Run for Food for eight years.

The Durham resident and his family run it every year to help raise money for the Jesus Center and make a difference in the community, he said.

"Thank you to the community,” Young said. "This is great community event and we get to be a part of it. We’re just overjoyed of having that possibility.”