After running several 5Ks, a 10K, 15K and even a half marathon in 2012, I hadn’t participated in a single race this year. On Saturday, however, I threw caution, fear and insecurity to the wind and laced up for the R-KIDS 5K, which supported the pediatric genomics program at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.
It wasn’t something I planned on doing, but last week I realized it was something I needed to do, especially after I found out who organized the race and why.
David Gunther, 17, learned about the research of childhood genetic disorders last summer while interning at Conversant Bio, a HudsonAlpha resident associate company. The Bob Jones High School senior took on the heavy load of organizing this event that would raise funds for, and awareness of, this important project. The research stands to help hundreds of North Alabama children with undiagnosed genetic disorders, as well as their families, all of whom are desperate for answers.
Gunther, with the support of his parents, Jim and Jane, did this on top of his other responsibilities, which include serving as editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, running cross-country and track for BJHS, and serving on the National Honor Society. This bright kid is also a National Merit Scholarship finalist.
As a HudsonAlpha employee, donor and overall cheerleader, I decided to get back in the race and signed up for the 5K, with three days to spare. I am glad I did. I was so impressed with David, whose first R-KIDS (Run to Kure Infant Disorders) event reeled in more than 250 registrants and thousands of dollars. David’s enthusiasm was contagious, and many of his peers “caught” his passion for the research underway at HudsonAlpha, a nonprofit organization committed to improving human health and quality of life through genomic research, educational outreach and economic development.
Some 30 students volunteered, sacrificing a precious “sleep-in” morning to support the race, and ultimately HudsonAlpha. Their commitment astounded me, with teens showing up as early as 6:30 to set up tables, tents and registration tables.
It felt great to be back in a race environment, which tends to be rich in energy, camaraderie and community. I had quit running in January following a shin injury. Walking, which I also enjoy, once again became my primary means of exercise. This fall, though, I gradually started running again, a mile here, a mile there. I didn’t realize a high school senior, whom I had never met, would be my inspiration to return to the local race scene. More than that, I had no idea how great it would feel — physically, mentally and emotionally — to be there.
My time wasn’t great: 32:something-or-other. I walked a bit at mile two as I guzzled a cup of much-needed water. Out of a running routine, I had forgotten my rituals of bringing my own water bottle, setting my Map-My-Fitness app, and taking a “break” before the start. I’ll remember those details next time.
There will be a next time, probably as early as the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, just a few days out. No grandiose visions of half marathons, though. And the Cotton Row 10K, which I skipped this year, is still six months away.
I just plan on taking it one step, one day and one glorious race at a time.
As for folks who may be worried about our nation’s future: Relax. There are kids like David and his friends in communities across the country. I firmly believe we are in good hands.