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Inspiration Found While Volunteering at 5K Race

Dawn Aulet offers a first-person account of passing out water at last week's Sundowner 5K in Pilcher Park and the memories it conjured up.

Being on the sidelines as runners dash past you at all speeds and paces is something to experience. Doing that while holding out cups of water and hearing shouts of "thank you" or "thanks for doing this" or "thanks for being here" while the runners speed past is quite another.

The , the second in a series of three races held by the annually, took place at in Thursday night. I was able to experience it as a volunteer.

All of us tried our best to encourage the people who came past us but three of the runners stick in my mind - the man who was running barefoot (I wanted to stop him to get his story), the pregnant woman who grabbed water and then went straight for the bags of ice volunteers were also handing out, and a woman who injured herself and was frustrated because she had been in the lead for her age group.

I felt a camaraderie with these runners because I have run the Sundowner myself in the past.

Years ago, when I was much more dedicated to going to the gym, mostly because I had a workout buddy, I signed up for a number of 5Ks. I am no runner. I don't like running. I have asthma, so the feeling of my lungs on fire as I run them to capacity is not only unpleasant, it's a little scary.

But I like to walk. So, in most 5Ks that year, I was in the back of the starting lineup, walking with the stroller pushers.

I remember the Sundowner especially well because I called ahead of time to find out if there were any walkers and was told yes. Perhaps it was a fluke year or maybe I was just really, really slow, but I was last person to come in ... by a long shot. One of the runners who was cooling off spotted me and decided to walk the last quarter mile at my side.

What she said echoed in my mind as I was on the sidelines at this year's race. I complained to her about how slow I was and her response was, you came out and you finished the race. You're already a step ahead of everyone else who didn't even get off the couch.

As the runners and walkers went past me, I'd shout, "way to go," "you're doing great" or "keep going." In my head, though, I wanted to tell them they were already a step ahead just because they showed up and participated.

I have a soft spot in my heart for the walkers, just because of my experience. Because while the first-place runners get lauded, it's the ones just starting out or who had to walk because they could not run who deserve applause, too.

So, in that vein, I would like to give the last-place finisher of the 2012 Sundowner a Patch T-shirt. Kudos to you for coming out. And, maybe you need a new workout buddy? It's likely you are walking at just my speed.

Contact me at dawn.aulet@patch.com.

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