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GEMS to hold third annual 5k

Overbay takes to the track for another 24 hours leading up to race
By: By Tony Overbay Special to The News Messenger
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Budget cuts continue to threaten local schools and the Glen Edwards Middle School Association of Parents, Teachers and Students will help combat budget cuts by hosting a 5k race through  Lincoln streets for the third year in a row.

And I, as a Glen Edwards Middle School parent, and ultra-runner, will again run around the middle school’s and Lincoln High School track for 24 hours to help raise awareness for the race and to encourage students and their families to exercise. 

The 5k starts at 9 a.m.  Saturday, April 27 with a kid’s free quarter-mile fun run at 8:30 a.m. I’ll start my run at 8 a.m. on Friday, April 26 at the Glen Edwards track, and finish at 8 a.m. on Saturday, April 27 on the Lincoln High track. The public can sign up for the 5k by visiting gems5k.com.

When I suggested that I would run for 24 hours prior to the inaugural GEMS 5k, I’ll admit I thought it was just for that first year. But the feedback from the students and the community was overwhelming, and with four kids going through GEMS, I decided I better plan on doing it for years to come.

Last year, I began running on the GEMS track at the start of school Friday and finished up 122 miles and 24 hours later. Following my trek was a kid’s quarter-mile free fun run followed by more than 400 runners in the 5k.

This year will follow last year’s schedule, including a large community event at the Lincoln High School track on Friday night, complete with food, music, crafts and sweets booths and an inflatable obstacle course for the kids.

“The Friday night community event was a huge success,” said Denise Blackstock, the 5k’s co-race director. “And this year, we believe that it will be even bigger. We have food from local restaurants like LaVilla and Homespun yogurt, an inflatable obstacle course, music and booths featuring arts, crafts and food from people from around the area. And Tony will be running.”

I plan on once again running with Glen Edwards Middle School students in their PE classes during the day and with anyone who wants to run a few laps around the track in the evening.

Last year, entire soccer and baseball teams ran the track with me, along with a lot of residents who wanted to be a part of a big, community party.

A steady stream of runners took shifts to keep me company throughout the night. Some families camped out on the infield turf of the football stadium.

The No. 1 question I get asked is, “Do you take breaks?” I really can’t. After a few hours of running; if I stop for long, my legs will fight me on starting up again.

All run proceeds, and from the donations leading up to the run, will benefit Glen Edwards Middle School. The first year of the run, the Association of Parents, Teachers and Students raised enough money to save the school’s sports program. Last year, the association again paid for sports and was able to pay for additional computers, music equipment and other items that the school budget was unable to cover.

“We started the run simply as a way to raise money for the school,” said Anita Stewart, co-race director and a mother of four. “But the school and the community really responded positively to the event and people really started talking about running more. My two oldest kids, Sara and Nathan, both GEMS students, ran the 5k last year and will again this year. My 9-year-old Natalie is going to run the 5k this year, her first 5k, and she has been in training for a few weeks!”

Blackstock echoed the comments about running playing a positive role in her life.

“Inspiring students and adults to run and adding fitness into more families’ lives was more like a gift,” Blackstock said. “The fundraiser does two things I feel so strongly about. It raises money for our school and helps people add a healthy activity to their lives.”

Sign up for the race or donate at gems5k.com. The kid’s fun run is free; the 5k is $25 for adults and $20 for ages 17 and under. Those registering by April 6 are guaranteed a tech-fabric race T-shirt.

The race features a chip timing system and there are prizes for the top finishers in several age divisions.

The community event will be held from 5 to 9 p.m.  on Friday night, April 26 at the Lincoln High School track.