Participants in the sixth annual Hospice of Marshall County Race to Remember have different reasons for running or walking the 5 kilometers.
Joseph James, 63, of Boaz, has run in the five previous races and is planning to run No. 6 on Saturday. He said the race signals the start of the 5K running season for the area.
“Since they’ve started, it’s become quite a good-sized run,” said James, originally from Philadelphia, Pa., and married to a Boaz native, the former Kelley Elkins. “It’s a pretty flat course. Being that it’s a run and a walk, it’s been growing over the years. There were a lot of senior citizens in it last year.”
The Race to Remember starts at 8 a.m. on a certified course at Snead State Community College in Boaz. Proceeds benefit Hospice of Marshall County, a nonprofit agency that provides patients with end-of-life care.
For the second time, James is running for his mother-in-law, Evelyn, who died last March. Participants often run in memory or in honor of a loved one.
Hospice of Marshall County Public Relations Assistant Vickie Watson frequently visits the Boaz Senior Center, where James is a member, and shares news of the race each year. That’s how James heard about it.
James received a healthy dose of inspiration from a former Race to Remember participant, the late Claudis Hawkins. James said he often encountered Hawkins at various 5Ks in the area.
“After the first year, I met an older gentleman who ran it, and he kind of helped me get healthy,” said James, referring to Hawkins, a Rainbow City resident who died at age 93 in November. “He was 91 years old at the time I met him. He ran just about everything. We talked several times about how he kept himself so healthy. At the time, I was pretty heavy.”
James took Hawkins’ advice to heart and lost 128 pounds over an 18-month period. He has since run six half marathons in Huntsville and Key West, Fla.
James is ready to start another running season with the Race to Remember, not only for the health benefits but to support a worthy cause.
James said people of all ages and fitness levels can participate.
“To show you how much the older people are getting involved, last year a 75- or 76-year-old woman walked the whole 3.2 miles on a walker,” James said.
“If that isn’t incentive for people to get out and get healthy, nothing can be.”