With thousands lined up along the parade route and the smell of barbecue lingering in the air, 75 participants in the Guam Running Club 35th annual Liberation Day Mile kicked off the 75th annual Liberation Day parade Sunday in Hagåtña.

After being away from Guam for five years, former Dededo resident Patrick Silverio, who is an 11-time Boston Marathon runner, said he was 17 years old when he ran the inaugural race in 1985. The New Jersey resident said it was great to run in the race again.

“The liberation of Guam was a milestone for the island, and to run on Liberation Day after all these years, it felt really good being back,” Silverio said. “As a kid, there wasn’t any significance thinking that 1985 was the first Liberation Mile. But now, it is exciting to be a part of this tradition. It’s really good to be back and run that mile again.”

Once the gun went off at the starting line, the 75 runners who registered for the race made their way down Marine Corp Drive from the 76 gas station near Adelup to the Marine monument across from Chamorro Village. Temptation was strong as the runners blitzed the streets with the smell of barbecue pervading the air and island music blaring from various tents in anticipation of the all-day event.

Luke Bukikosa finished first in 5 minutes, 8 seconds, edging out Carlos Leon Guerrero (5:10). Zachary Criss rounded out the top three finishers in 5:30. In the women's race, Rhea Macaluso topped all female runners, finishing in 6:17. Guam Olympian Marie Benito took second in 6:37, while Shakeera Esma rounded out the top three female finishers in 6:45.

Bukikosa, a track athlete with George Washington High School, said his time improved thanks to his competition in the 1,500-meter race during the interscholastic season.

“I was happy that I ran my personal best,” he said. “But the smoke was really tough for me. ... Halfway through the race, I ran through a patch of smoke from grilled shrimp. I have a shrimp allergy and it made breathing tough, and I felt really awkward.”

For some runners, the race is a remembrance run for so many people who lost their lives during the war. Many families on Guam were directly affected by World War II.

“I had a lot of my family members were affected by the war, and this race was a really good way to remember them. During World War II, both of my grandmothers were affected, but they never talked about it,” Bukikosa said.

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