MOULTRIE – Let me preface this article with a disclosure: I am not a runner. I like to think of myself as healthy. I try to eat the right things and exercise through sports to keep my mind and body happy, but I can’t go out and run 3.1 miles, which was the distance of the inaugural 5K Color Fun Run I participated in Saturday morning that was put on by the Moultrie Junior Women’s Club.I am, what I have dubbed, a “wunner” — mostly a walker with running sprinkled in.

Okay, fine… You caught me. It’s a jog. A really slow heavy-breathing, struggle-bus jog. But that’s okay. It doesn’t matter how fast I finish or what my placement is compared to the other participants. The whole point of organized races is to get outside in the fresh air and have some fun while engaging with the community, and, usually, supporting a fundraiser. Tiffany Fox, the third vice president for the Moultrie Junior Women’s Club, explained to me where the proceeds were going: “At the end of each year we write checks to specific nonprofit groups,” said Fox, explaining they put all proceeds from all fundraisers into a single account and let it grow throughout the year. “At the end of 2020 we donated $19,500 back to 29 nonprofits.” – Throughout my life, I have participated in a plethora of races from distances as short as one mile all the way up to a half marathon, which is 13.1 miles. I’ve also tried many different styles of races, like muddy obstacle courses, dressing like a pirate to collect “treasure” every mile, prepping like a princess to run through Disney World before it opens or collecting easter eggs in a fanny pack as I found them along the course. And, now I can say I’ve had powered paint thrown at me twice. Moultrie did it better.

The first color run I did was probably ten years ago in Seattle, Wash. It was miserable. I won’t go into it too much, but long story short there were thousands of people in attendance so the color stations got bottle-necked. After waiting about a half hour to get through the first station, I finally gave up and bypassed them all. By the end of the 6.2 miles there was so much powder in the air it was hard to see and forget about breathing without inhaling the stuff. I had colorful boogers for a week. Because of that experience, I vowed never to do a color run again. So, when Moultrie brought it to Colquitt County, I have to admit, I was nervous about how it would go. – I was blown away. By 9 a.m., I and the other 259 registered racers were gathering together and were all excited to get started.

After I received my packet, I donned my official 2023 Color Run T-shirt and enjoyed the pre-race festivities of photo ops, local food trucks and group warm-up stretches. But, hands down, my favorite aspect of the pre-race festivities was looking around at all the people who chose to come out on a muggy morning with smiles on their faces donning white clothes daring to get smacked with color…and then we all threw powdered paint at each other, sending a roar of laughter and playful screams into the air. Seeing that many people all smiling and laughing together while attacking each other with the colors of the rainbow reminded me how great the sense of community is here in Moultrie, even amongst strangers. And I’m not the only one who saw it.“We have a generous community,” said Fox. “I was estimating 60 people for this event, and when you see so many people come out and participate, it’s overwhelming.”

Throughout the entire race, I would see people compliment each other on their particular splatter pattern or get into a conversation with a stranger who was moving at a similar pace.

That’s honestly why I love racing so much. It’s certainly not from any kind of runner’s high I get. Because I prefer to workout through strength training and playing sports that use short bursts of energy, when I run any kind of distance I feel like I am trudging my way through a swamp with 50 pound sponges for shoes and a giant rubber band looped around my waist that’s connected to my couch urging me to become the potato I could so easily be.

But, none of that matters when I’m in a race. For those couple hours, I am part of an elite group of a conglomerate of people ranging from younger kids following their parents’ footsteps to mothers wanting to find a new passion to athletes who have been in this sport for decades. Plus, runners are some of the most encouraging athletes I have ever met. Not to say other athletes aren’t nice. They are. But I’ve never witnessed more athlete to athlete cheering during an event than I have in running. Especially from seasoned athletes to those just starting out.“I’m so glad I chose this for my first race,” said Funston resident Alex Ulakovits, who participated in the Color Run with her husband and 7-month-old baby girl. “The color station really gave me something fun to look forward to.”The Color Run had a total of six stations and was an out-and-back course rather than a loop.

This meant as the faster participants turned and were coming back, two things happened: One, us slower folks cheered them on, and two, the leaders motivated us right back. “The best thing was passing other runners and cheering each other on,” said Ulakovits. “It was like there was no competition, and everyone just wanted to see everyone do their best and have fun. It was quite an experience.” Participating in races isn’t about being a runner. Yes, of course hardcore runners do races, but that’s only a small percentage, especially with the quirky-themed races. Most just want to have fun and be social.

So, the next time a race comes to Colquitt County, sign up! Doesn’t matter if you run, walk or crawl. Because, as my favorite running shirt reads, “I run. It might look like a turtle trudging through peanut butter, but I run.”

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