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Life, the Liberty 5K and the pursuit of 500 runners

Fourth annual patriotic-themed run will take place July 3 in Morris

For the second time, local Marines and young adults who have enlisted but not yet gone to boot camp will be on hand for pre-race ceremonies, as well as to run the Liberty 5K with the other participants.
For the second time, local Marines and young adults who have enlisted but not yet gone to boot camp will be on hand for pre-race ceremonies, as well as to run the Liberty 5K with the other participants.

The fourth annual Liberty 5K Run/Walk is just around the corner and promises to be an even bigger event this year, so participants are encouraged to register early.

The event hosted by the Grundy County Farm Bureau and the Morris Downtown Development Partnership had 336 runners last year despite the 100-degree weather the evening of the run.

“It was amazing,” said Julie Applegate, MDDP executive director.

“Last year was the highest,” she said. “It was a 56 percent increase. It was huge.”

The goal is to get to 500 runners/walkers, said Tasha Bunting, manager of the Farm Bureau.

This year’s run/walk will begin at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 3.

Those who pre-register by June 28, which is the pre-race party, can do so for $25 online at Those who register the day of the event will pay $30.

The Kids Fun Runners can only register the day of for $5. Registration for the kids’ run is 5 to 6:30 p.m., while for the 5K it is 5 to 7 p.m. under the registration tent on the corner of Jefferson and Liberty streets.
Those who pre-register are guaranteed a Liberty Run T-shirt and a goodie bag. The run has about 45 registered so far, said Bunting.

The patriotic 5K event has Marines on site who run with the participants.

Last year was the first year for their presence and there were five Marines and about 30 “poolees,” which are young adults who have enlisted, but are waiting to go to boot camp, said SSgt. Jacob Mahaffey of the Morris recruiting office.

The event allows these future Marines to get involved in the community and to get recognition for their future dedication, said Mahaffey. In addition, it gives them quite a workout. The “poolees” workout with the Marines twice a week for two hours.

“I hope we get invited every year,” said Mahaffey. “Last year was a blast. We got a lot of support from the community.”

Also returning this year is the flyover, said Applegate. Members of the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 95 will come from the Morris Municipal Airport and fly in formation just before the race begins.

The Liberty 5K is the main race for “Run 4 Morris,” a program to promote runs in the city. There are six in the program this year, said Applegate. Anyone who runs in four of the six will receive a “Run 4 Morris” sweatshirt at the Run the Beat 5K in October and will be entered into a raffle for prizes. All runners must run in the Liberty 5K to qualify.

About 100 people ran in all four of the races that were a part of the program last year.

“It went really, really well,” said Bunting. “We were expected 25 people and it came to 100. We anticipate an even larger number this year because we added more races.”

The next race in the “Run 4 Morris” circuit is the second annual Christian Youth Center of Morris 5K Saturday, June 22. Registration on race day is $30 and begins at 6:30 a.m. at the Lions Pavilion in Goold Park off of Union Street in Morris. The race begins at 8 a.m.

Karen Zelko of Morris volunteered at and walked the 5K last year. The Liberty Run/Walk was her first-ever 5K and last year she did a total of six.

“In a lot of ways it was my favorite because we were walking through downtown Morris and it was a picturesque scene,” she said. “It was fun.”

This year it will again be her first 5K of the season.

The beneficiary of the event this year will be Patriots 4 Heroes, which is a local organization that supports military personnel, veterans and their families. In previous years the run has benefited Operation: MOMS Cookies, which has retired.

For the last two years Operation: MOMS Cookies received $500. Other organizations that volunteer for the event also receive donations from the run.


The Farm Bureau and MDDP are currently looking for volunteers to help run the event.

About 40 are needed, said Bunting. Jobs that day include running the kids run, water and misting stations, organizing and registering the runners, handing out the T-shirts and goodie bags, and manning the corners to keep the runners on course.

Organizations, clubs and individuals can volunteer. To sign up to volunteer, call the Grundy County Farm Bureau at (815) 942-6400.

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