The Ozarks are famous for drawing visitors who want to enjoy the colors of autumn, as the deciduous trees transition to their palette of red, orange, and gold---sandwiched between the vivid green of cedar and pine. However, there is a DIFFERENT kind of color you can observe in the Ozarks on the Saturday before Thanksgiving---that is the color of hundreds of runners and walkers, flowing like a river, as they ramble past the White River, in Cotter, Arkansas.
This phenomena started ten years ago when avid runner Laurie Kasinger (shown in this collage talking on her cell phone) wanted to turn her love of running, into something that would help others, not just herself. She talked to her church pastor about it, and with his help, support was garnered from area churches, to start what is now called the White River Marathon (www.whiterivermarathon.com ). The project chosen to help others, is a part of a Community Development Program, in Katito, Kenya, under the auspices of World Vision (www.worldvision.org ). It was this event ten years ago, that motivated me to not only participate in the 5K, but also to start sponsoring a child in Katito, Kenya, through World Vision. Likewise, dozens of others have become "enlightened" as to how they can help a child on another continent, and are also sponsoring children in Katito. Several residents from the Mountain Home area have made the trip to Katito to see for themselves, how the World Vision Community Development Program has improved lives for residents of that village. I am thankful I have been able to see a little girl in Kenya grow from a preschooler, to a teenager, these last ten years, through the photos and updates on her, that I receive regularly from World Vision. Likewise, I am thankful that I have been able to participate in the 5K division of the White River Marathon for Kenya these last ten years! Over that time period, some traditions have developed involving the race, including having my photo made with the Johnsons! (lower left corner of collage). In addition, I remember taking a photo of Laurie at that first race, and being impressed with her gentle spirit. I got to know her better later, as she was a participant in a healthy living program I work with locally, called First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ).
As you can imagine, I have a nice collection of tee shirts from the ten events, and the red color of the 2013 shirt, will brighten my closet for sure!
The thermometer was registering in the low forties, at the 7 am race starting time, which might account for the shivering appearance of some of these marathoners at the starting line!
Runners had the option of keeping on their warm outer gear as long as possible, then putting it into a plastic bag with their name on it, piled up at the starting line. These "drop bags" were then delivered to the finish line, for them to retrieve their outer garments, once they finished the race.
Fortunately, the precipitation that happened overnight had dissipated by race time, which was a blessing!
A photographer was there to take photos of people as they crossed the finish line ( www.podiumimages.com ), but I wanted to get my own photo of this pretty First Place 4 Health alum, as she sprinted across the finish line!
Something new this year was that we each had a computer timing chip attached to our shoe lace (right photo), so it was important that we stepped on the blue mats at the finish line (left photo), to "complete the circuit". A volunteer was waiting for us at the end, to cut off the "high-tech hardware" !
As the title of the event implies, the route follows the banks of the White River for much of the time (left photo), so the scenery is gorgeous. Also, there are trash containers, and portable toilets along the way, to make sure it stays that way!
At the finish line, there is an abundance of bottled water, sports beverages, GU, bananas, donuts, and bagels, to replenish the tried, hungry, and thirsty runners! In addition, area Licensed Massage Therapists, volunteer their services, and set up their tables at the Cotter School finish line area, to soothe the aching muscles of those brave souls who complete the marathon.
Since the finish line is about one mile from the starting line (where participants park their cars), local churches generously supplied vans to transport runners back to the race headquarters at the Cotter School.
When a runner/walker returns to the finish line, the bottom part of their race number is torn off, then placed on these boards, in order to keep track of participants' name and age group. Having assisted with 5K runs back in the 1970's, I can assure you, race tally procedures have been greatly streamlined in the day of cyberspace computer technology!
I took this photo of Dr. Hilvert giving out a prize, because the female he is presenting it to, is the one who won first place in my age category. When I went over afterwards to congratulate her, she told me she was from out of state (in the Ozarks, we just say someone like that is from "OFF"), and she was one of numerous folks from "OFF", who return year after year, because they like the location!! We want EVERYONE, whether they are locals, or from "OFF", to feel welcome at the White River Marathon for Kenya!
I was DELIGHTED to win second place in my age group for the 5K, and received my first medal (some would say, it is about time, since I have made TEN attempts!) I especially liked the medal because when you hold it up to the light, the blue sky and green hills are translucent, giving the appearance of a stained glass window! Even though the ribbon says "second place", if you consider the lady who beat me was not from Arkansas, I could say I was in "first place" of the Arkansas females in my age category!
It was so great to see kids participating in the event, and enjoying the excitement of winning a medal, or assisting at the awards ceremony!
In case a runner realized at the last minute that they needed a particular running accessory, this vendor was there to supply their needs!
Also available at the finish line was a variety of homemade soups/chili, fruit, pizza, and breakfast sandwiches. Thanks to all the volunteers/food establishment owners who supplied and served these delicious items!
Hopefully, seeing what a great event this is, has made you want to put it on your calendar for next year! As the photo shows, the White River Marathon for Kenya is a Boston Marathon Qualifier, it has the flattest and fastest course in Arkansas, and it is scheduled for November 22, 2014!! BE THERE!!
When I saw all the feet at the event today, I was reminded of the verse from Romans 10:15----"How can people tell the Good News if no one sends them? As Scripture says, 'How beautiful are the feet of the messengers who announce the Good News' ." In the town of Katito, Kenya, more people are hearing that Good News, thanks to the White River Marathon for Kenya! This Good News will bring all of us "MILES OF SMILES"!!! Tricia