DALLAS – At the Dallas Mavericks Run This Town 5K held Thursday night, the third time was the charm for Gabriel Zambrano. Well, so too were the first and second times.

In a race that started near the doors of American Airlines Center and wound its way through Victory Park and the Design District, Zambrano ended up winning the men’s division for the third consecutive year. Meanwhile, in her first time running this race, Dallas’ Erica Marrari battled through the field and captured the women’s division.

A total of 1,000 folks ran in this race, which was presented by 5miles and benefits the Mavs Foundation. And the two winners entered this race under similar unusual circumstances.

Zambrano, who resides in Fort Worth, was taking a walk down memory lane when he noticed the start date for the Mavs Run This Town 5K.

“Luckily, I was looking through some old memories and I saw that this race was coming up, so I decided to jump in kind of at the last minute just as a tune-up,” Zambrano said. “I’ve got to start working towards my half-marathon training, so this was just kind of a speed workout for me (Thursday).

“But luckily I was still able to come out with the win.”

When there was no one there to push him to finish with a better time, Zambrano already had a full-proof strategy in mind.

“My dad is out of town and he just told if there’s nobody out there to push you, you better stick with the (police) car, and that’s what I did,” Zambrano said. “The second cop car was pushing me a lot, so I just tried to stay with him.

“Every time he sped up a bit I tried to increase my speed as well.”

Zambrano won the men’s division with a season-best time of 15:32. He credited the crowd for making sure he was the first person to cross the finish line.

“The crowd is so, so helpful, especially towards the end when you feel like you’ve got nothing left in you,” the 24-year old Zambrano said. “Seeing the home crowd cheering you on, you can’t beat that. It’s rare in a lot of races that you don’t get that (adrenalin) rush.

“Plus, the starting line is awesome. When you’re able to start at the same place where the Mavericks play it’s kind of a bonus for me. You’ve got to love that.”

This race also was a bonus for Marrari, who was participating in it for the first time.

“I live in West Village, so I’m right here, I’m home,” Marrari said. “I’m just going to walk the Katy Trial home. It’s a home court (advantage).”

Like Zambrano, Marrari also had a last-minute change of plans leading up to the start of the Mavs Run This Town 5K.

“I was supposed to do the speed workout this morning and I switched up to do my speed workout in the evening,” she said. “It was ideal.

“It’s my PR for my 5K road race. How fun is that? I’m getting older and I’m getting faster.”
Marrari also paid homage to the course.

“It’s a good course and a good crowd,” she said. “I like the start. You can’t go wrong with this finish either, so it was a really nice course.

“I like that it was primarily flat, but you had a little bit of a hill in the middle and then close to the end. And who doesn’t like finishing downhill?”

Several Mavs employees got in on the racing fun. And two of them – Kelly O’Brien and Greg Nared – also got involved with some good-natured trash talking.

O’Brien, the Mavs’ sponsorship activation manager, wanted to make sure she reached the finish line before Nared. And she did.

“I lapped him,” O’Brien said while laughing. “I strutted past him sideways.

“I placed sixth overall (in a time of 20.53). I run pretty often – like four to five times a week.”

In other words, Nared had no chance at beating O’Brien, who also ran in the Dallas Marathon earlier this year.

“I’m driving around Victory Park about six months ago and I see a young lady running extremely fast,” Nared said. “I turned around and I was like, ‘Who is that?’

“It was Kelly O’Brien.”

Despite not crossing the finish line before O’Brien, Nared was able to get accomplished what he came out here to get accomplished.

“It was a great race and it was fun,” said Nared, who is the Mavs’ Sr. Vice-President of Community, Youth Basketball and Player Relations. “Everybody seemed like they were enjoying themselves.

“There was some hooting and hollering out there, which is awesome. It was good energy, we got 1,000 folks here and people recognized that, and they want to be a part of that. We’re just extremely excited to be a part of something that’s so special like this.”

In the meantime, while Marrari will be running in a marathon in Chicago on Oct. 7, Zambrano will be running in the Boston Marathon next year. But the big question is will he return to the Mavs Run This Town 5K next year to try and four-peat?

“We’ll see,” Zambrano said. “I’ve already won the first three times, so I don’t know if I’ve got another one in me.

“Three times and three wins. I feel like as if I do have a big target on my back. I think I have an even bigger one now.”

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