MORRIS – Newlyweds Tanner and Amber Berg crossed the finish line of the anyBODY 5K with smiles from ear to ear. As a new couple, they have decided to take measures to organize and better their lives, and running was one of those steps to a healthier lifestyle.
The Bergs live in the neighborhood near the Aug. 5 event and love to run, but that was not the only reason they attended.
The anyBODY 5K run, walk, stroll was a brain child of the Grundy County Health Department outreach and education coordinator Kelly Hitt and intake coordinator John Moss.
The name say it all – anybody can participate because it was designed for people at all levels.
Hitt said she wants those people who may be restricted in some way from being able to run to come and walk to get outside and exercise as well and be with the community.
The main purpose of the anyBODY 5K is twofold: To create an event where people of all ages and abilities could finish a 5K and raise funds to help the underserved.
“People hear the word ‘run’ and they are scared. Anybody can do it and some people never get out there and see that some people don’t run these races, they plan to walk,” Moss said. “We want people to get off of the couch and get out here to show themselves they can do a 5K. If they do this one, maybe they will do another and continue,”
Hitt said the reason they wanted to use the funds in the manner they designed was because many of the state and federal grants have stipulations on who can receive the help, and many times clients do not qualify for the grants, but need assistance.
“We want to use this money to help offset anyone falling through the eligibility requirements of our grants,”
“I think this is wonderful. We used to be on food stamps ourselves, and now we own our own home and we have good jobs,” Amber Berg said.
The event had 18 sponsors and the group had a vision of about 100 people for the inaugural 5K, but a month before, Hitt said only 23 people had registered and she began to panic.
After a strong social media campaign, numbers jumped and steadily increased.
The day of the event, people came in droves to sign up and with 15 minutes before the start, Hitt had to go into the office to make more copies of the registration forms.
“I am so pleasantly overwhelmed and thankful. We want to help clients directly. We have smiles on our faces because apparently the community heard about our goal and with the turnout we had, supported our goal,” Hitt said.
Only moments before the 9 a.m. start, Moss informed Hitt that the number was at 170 with a few more to register. The end number was just shy of 180 runners ages 4 years old and older.
Nathan Joerndt opened the ceremony with the national anthem. Temperatures neared 90, with the humidity climbing as well, but that did not deter the runners, walkers and strollers.
Each took off with purpose and meandered the neighborhoods near the Grundy County Administration Building with the Morris Fire Protection District ambulance as the caboose.
Water stations along the way kept participants hydrated in the heat and humidity.
The first runner to cross the finish line was “ultrarunner” Josh Rogowski of Wilmington. Mere steps before he crossed, his daughter, Avery Rogowski, ran to her father and crossed together with a stuffed animal in her arms.
“This was a good run; it was a little warm, but good,” Rogowski said.
“I think this run was a great idea, there are a lot of people struggling to find work,” he said in response to the funds used to help the underserved.
The first female to cross the finish line was 17-year-old Bridget Landers of Morris. Landers also commented on the intense heat, but she stayed focused in spite of it because she trains and was familiar with the anyBODY 5K route.
Toward the end of the finish line row, volunteers of all ages from Crossbridge Community Church of the Nazarene handed out ice cold bottles of water to the hot and tired runners and also offered fruit.
At 10 a.m. a few of the youngest athletes ran one-half mile under direction of a volunteer.
At 10:30 a.m., awards were given to the top overall male and female finisher as well as the top three males and females in each 10-year age group.