As second-year Maverick Justin Anderson did sprints of his own on the practice court in American Airlines Center, more than 1,200 Mavs fans raced above him through the streets of Dallas in the third-annual Mavs Run This Town 5K, presented by Baylor Emergency Medical Centers.

Anderson emerged from the arena after his evening workout to find a party already underway on the AT&T Plaza just outside the AAC, with the Quaker City Night Hawks blasting southern rock as the final runners crossed the finish line.

Admittedly not much of a distance runner himself — although he does run quite a bit on the basketball court, of course — Anderson said one day he’d like to compete in a race such as this one, which benefits the Mavs Foundation.

“It’s something that I think I want to use to stay in shape once I’m done playing,” he said. “It just seems like a good time. It’s a great atmosphere. The band’s playing right now, everyone’s getting to mingle and talk to one another afterward. It’s a great time.”

The Bud Light After Party is a great time, to be sure, but the race itself is just as competitive as you’d expect a USA Track & Field certified contest to be. Collegiate cross country runners compete alongside regular full and half-marathon participants, and Gabriel Zambrano’s winning time of 15:20 reflects just how much of a sprint the race actually was. A 5K is approximately 3.1 miles, making Zambrano’s pace just over five minutes per mile.

After the race, the Fort Worth resident admitted he’d actually thought the race began half an hour later than the 7 p.m. start time, meaning he didn’t have enough time to go through his complete warmup. That didn’t seem to affect him, though, as he took home first place in the men’s division. It was his first time competing in this specific event, and he said knowing the proceeds benefit the Mavs Foundation adds something for him, as he’s a big basketball fan.

“There’s no better way to run a race than when you’re actually helping other people as well,” Zambrano said.

Meanwhile, Kelsey Bruce, a Dallas Baptist University cross country assistant coach and alum, took the women’s division title with an official time of 17:02. She said her goal was to clock in under 17 minutes, but winning the race would more than make up for the two-second difference. Also a big basketball fan, she entered the race following a recommendation from her coach. Having run competitive races at the collegiate level for years, she said the atmosphere at Thursday’s 5K — which featured a Mavs twist, including ManiAACs, Mavs Dancers, and PA announcer Sean Heath as emcee — added to the event.

“The energy’s just great,” she said. “The guys at the starting line were dancing, and everyone just had smiles on their faces, so it makes it a lot more fun.”

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