Democrat team limps into action, if not record books

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 9, 2001

The training schedule so carefully clipped from the newspaper still hangs on my refrigerator. It’s long since been covered up by popcorn art and the handiwork of young scholars.

But underneath the artwork lies a carefully plotted, 12-week schedule that, if consistently followed, is guaranteed to turn a casual exercise buff into a race-ready, 5K runner. When The Democrat agreed to become a title sponsor the Junior Auxiliary of Natchez’s Spring into Action 5K run and walk, we eagerly decided to support the race – with our finances and our feet.

Of course, I didn’t follow that schedule so carefully prepared by veteran runner and race director Stephanie Daly. In fact, I’d wager a bet that none of the eager, if less than committed, Democrat staffers who vowed to train in mid-January actually followed the schedule each day. Of course, we meant to follow it …

For weeks, we’d stop each other in the halls to ask about &uot;training.&uot;

&uot;How far’d you run yesterday?&uot; or &uot;How’s the training going?&uot;

And, for weeks, we had something to talk about. Some of us, more than others. Of course, when it came time to design our race T-shirts, we all ‘fessed up on the lack of training and decided to admit it publicly, adopting the slogan &uot;Limping into Action&uot; for the shirts.

On Saturday, the big day arrived. And we all donned our team T-shirts and joined the hundreds of other runners, walkers and Junior Auxiliary members who wanted to have some fun and support one of the most proactive children’s welfare organizations in Natchez. I was there, of course, along with the other team members:

— Ben Hillyer, aka Crocodile Ben, who returned less than two weeks ago from a month-long Rotary International sponsored tour of Australia. He decided to join the team only Friday, and ended up winning first place for men in the 5K walk.

— Priscilla Randall, whose long legs propelled her into first place overall in the walk – for women and men.

— Todd and Emily Carpenter, perhaps the most diligent of our trainers, won first and second in their age groups, respectively, in the walk. The Carpenters have shamed the rest of the &uot;team&uot; in training, diligently following the schedule until the last couple of weeks or so.

— Kevin Cooper and Johnnie Griffin, the running duo, who braved the &uot;run&uot; while the rest of the team chickened out and entered in the walk. Both did well in their first official run although, if you asked either, they’d say &uot;it ain’t nothin’; we were just hoping we’d finish.&uot;

— Emily Whitten, a real runner, who placed second in her age group. Through the course of training, we learned that our quiet Emily is a daily jogger; of course she did well.

— Kerry Whipple, our official coach and the veteran half-marathoner, who inspired all of us to sign up and try to run (or at least walk). Kerry, unfortunately, lost her car key just as the run was beginning; she walked, instead, keeping the rest of us non-runners company and, unfortunately, still hunting her car key.

— April Wortham, who placed third in her age group in the 5K walk, followed only seconds later by photographer Erin Webster. The pair joined the team early, and April cited her hikes in China during a recent visit as her training. Erin joked that she began training on Tuesday. Either way, both brought their bright smiles and energy to the race and the team.

— Nita McCann, our Louisiana reporter, who is another one of those more diligent trainers. She likes to joke about the youngster on a tricycle who passed her one morning during an early walk and turned to ask, &uot;Lady, are you OK?&uot; Jokes aside, Nita’s training paid off and she walked fast and furiously throughout the race.

— And my mom, Muriel Grantland, another &uot;associate member&uot; of the team. I challenged her to walk earlier this year, when bravado got the best of me and I bragged that I was going to run in the 5K. Of course, she accepted the challenge. And, after finally admitting her real age to the race judges today, it turns out she won first place in her age group in the race. Pardon me if a beam a bit with pride …

Of course, that pride extends to all those members of The Democrat’s running team who were &uot;limping into action&uot; on Saturday. Part of the joy, and undoubtably one of the real benefits, of being a part of a community newspaper team is being able to take part in worthwhile community events … and have fun, while you do.

Stacy Graning is editor of The Democrat. She can be reached at 445-3539 or by e-mail at stacy.graning@natchezdemocrat.com.