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Saturday, November 6, 2010 -- Wheeling, WV / Bridge Street Middle School
Veterans Day 10K Run & Walk (iPO Event Id#: 12869)

[Details] [Coverage] [Photos] Results: [10K Overall] [10K by Class] [Veterans]

Special note from the Race Director, Hugh Stobbs:

    The race sent a check for $7,000 to the Paralyzed Vets and a check for $500 to the Hershel Woody Williams foundation and 125 race shirts at a cost of $500 to our local Marine detachment that has been deployed to Afghanistan for a total of $8,000.

Story and photos by Don Parks

Red, White, and Blue
Proud of our country and our veterans
At first I figured the Veterans Day 10K would just be another morning covering a 6.2 mile run and walk through the streets of Wheeling, West Virginia. It turned out to be quite a bit more than just that.

In the past year I read the book "Flags of Our Fathers" and learned a bit more of the history of World War II and the unbelievably horrifying battle of Iwo Jima. Today I would meet the race's honorary guest, Hershel Woodrow Williams, who likes to go by Woody. His display of uncommon valor on Iwo Jima earned him the Medal of Honor. It is the nation's highest military tribute. Woody, who turned 87 in October, is West Virgina's only living Medal of Honor recipient. I honestly didn't feel worthy to shake this man's hand.

Joining Woody at the starting line, where he would ride along in the lead vehicle, there were almost a hundred United States veterans ready to race from Bridge Street Middle School to WesBanco Arena in downtown Wheeling. Several hundred more runners and walkers joined them to compete in the Three Rivers USA Track and Field 10K Championship.

I watched with pride at the patriotic pageantry that led up to the start of the race. Then I hurried to the finish line to cheer in all the runners and walkers while I snapped as many photographs as I could. The finish, as was much of the race course, was crowded with spectators. But the one's that got my attention most were the veterans in wheelchairs spinning around ready to cheer on their friends and take some pictures of their own. I was feeling again like my sacrifices for my country were embarrassingly few.

First to finish the 10K run was 30-year-old Ryan Gunding from Staunton, Virginia. He finished in 37:49 but was chased the whole way to the finish by Ann Beck. The 26-year-old Beck, from Washington, Pennsylvania, finished just 17 seconds later at 38:06 to take second overall and the top female prize.

The 10K walk wasn't quite as close as 38-year-old Carl Kondrach, from Barnesville, Ohio, finished well out in front to take the overall win at 59:22. The first female was 35-year-old Carie Gump, a Wheeling local, who finished at 1:08:39.

Woody Williams
Woody reminds as all why we celebrate Veterans Day
Of all the race finishers it was probably the two wheelchair participants (technically hand cycles) that received the biggest cheers. David Swaim and Holly Koester both rolled their way up Wheeling Hill and raced back down to the finish where the two military veterans were given a warm welcome.

When everyone finished their morning run or walk it was time to head into the post-race banquet, and what a banquet it was. There was the usual distribution of awards. There was a buffet of food that was better than many weddings I've been to. There was a duet of fabulous singers, Rosie and Connie Pitts. There were the remarks given by the city's mayor and other distinguished guests. And then there was a little speech by Woody Williams.

At 87 years old Woody is as full of life as any man. He talked of the miracles that have happened in his life that have allowed him to live for as long as he has. And he spoke of the sacrifices so many have made so that we can all enjoy the lives we have. It was a powerful message and it got the best of me, I couldn't hold back the lump in my throat and the watering eyes.

Race director Hugh Stobbs really knows how to put on a great event and I think he really out did himself with this one. It will happen again next year on the first Saturday in November. Woody and many others have promised to return. You should plan to attend, too, so that you can be reminded once again what Veterans Day is really all about.