MORRIS – Despite temperatures in the 90’s and high humidity, 476 runners and walkers of all ages donned their red, white and blue and flooded downtown Morris for the annual Liberty 5K run July 3.
“This is something we do with the kids every year. We all dress up, the kids run too and we have a picture of all of each from each year,” Kenny Mack of Morris said.
The event, hosted by the Morris Downtown Development Partnership, Inc. (MDDP) began with yoga by Limitless Fitness and pre-race stretches for the kids by the Morris Community YMCA. The quarter-mile kids run took off down Liberty Street at 6:45 p.m. and over 20 children up to age 11, took off in dead sprints for the down and back course.
“I wanted to run because my brother was going to match me in my tutu,” Lily Hougas, 7, of Morris said.
After the kids run, the attention turned back to the 5k runners who lined up on the corner of Liberty and Jefferson Streets in time waves and City of Morris Mayor Richard Kopczick gave some words of encouragement.
“Welcome to the ninth Liberty 5k run. Hope everyone has their best ever time, be safe and enjoy, thanks,” Kopczick said.
After, 17-year-old Natalie Arwood of Seneca sang the national anthem, and the Morris Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 95 performed a fly-over moments before the runners launched onto the streets at 7:30 p.m.
Julie Applegate, Executive Director of the MDDP said the route was fairly flat, with a few slight hills which took the participants through the historical residential part of Morris, through Goold Park and back into the nostalgic downtown setting.
As the Morris Community High School band played at the finish line, Jackson Waters of New Lenox crossed with a time of 16:27 to earn his spot in first overall and first male, while Jill Diaz was the first female finisher with a time of 21:17.
One by one, runners crossed the finish line with sweat covered clothes and took ice cold water from members of Crossbridge Community Church of the Nazarene. Once finished, runners of age could partake in a free beer from Ebbey George’s Bar and Grill and a free burger freshly cooked by volunteers with the Grundy Resource Organization.
The evening lent to a small town, cozy vibe as participants and spectators alike hung out to chat with friends and neighbors. People grabbed burgers and sat on the sidewalks to replenish themselves and children ran around the streets decked out in patriotic gear.
Applegate said the run was designed to honor the military near the Fourth of July, but not something on that day itself. The July 3 date and night run allowed people a fun run after work hours the day before a holiday. In some years, the fireworks at the Grundy County Fairgrounds coincided with the run, so in the past, Applegate said, the run was a precursor to the rest of the evening’s festivities.
This year, the fireworks were on July 2 due to the fair schedule.
Cash prizes were give to the top three male and female runners, as well as a $1,000 prize to the running club which brought the most runners. Applegate said military participants were separately recognized and given distinct awards to thank them for their service.
Some participants chose to run because it was a fun family activity, or they like to run and participate in hometown events. Some came to run with the goal to support veterans.
Ken Swan of Naperville and Kenda VanWieringen of Mahomet ran in order to support the not-for-profit Team RWB (Team Red, White and Blue) veteran’s organization out of Chicago.
“We bring active duty and veterans together with civilians by doing physical events,” VanWieringen said.
Swan said the group was designed to get veterans active and funds raised by the group allow these veterans to attend events at no cost to the veteran. He said the groups has many runners, so these events fit into the mission of the group.
After the costs of the run and prizes, Applegate said the rest of the proceeds will go to a local military organization. She said last year the money was given to the VFW which in turn bought turkeys for a veteran’s home.
To find out more about MDDP events or the run series, go to www.downtownmorris