The Times West Virginian

March 28, 2013

Pierpont Veterans 5K one more way to say thanks to all who have served

Times West Virginian

— It’s been called the “tough­est 5K in West Virginia.”

But it’s for a great cause.

Individuals from around the community will gather at Veterans’ Square Plaza today for the third annual Pierpont Veterans 5K, formerly known as the Making Connections 5K. The race is designed to raise money for veterans’ education and scholarships at Pierpont Community & Technical College, and to date has raised more than $10,000 that has gone directly to veterans’ services.

There’s even a special category for veteran and active-duty runners, who are being encouraged to dress in a way that allows them to be recognizable as a veteran so that fans and people supporting the event can show their appreciation.

As Ron Weist, race director and director of community education for Pierpont Community & Technical College, said, the event is just one more way to say thanks.

“It’s a small token, but a very meaningful way that we can say thanks to those men and women who have served our country,” Weist said. “If we can help any of those veterans as they return to college by making their transition and education easier, better or more affordable, then we’re going to step up to the plate every time.”

In this instance, they’ll be stepping up to the starting line.

Participants at today’s 5K will begin at Veterans’ Square, go one block up Adams Street, then make a left to cross the Mollohan Bridge before attack­ing the incline up the Gateway Connector — “The challenge of the race comes in that hill. It’s a steady climb for a full mile,” Weist said — and, once they reach the Vietnam War and Korean War memorials, turn around and run back along the path they came.

And when they finally cross that finish line, whether with smiles on their faces or gasping for breath, whether they feel energized and victorious or as if their legs have turned to Jell-O, they will have the satisfaction of knowing their efforts were for a good cause.

Weist said the course symbolizes the true reason behind the event — supporting veterans.

“It’s symbolic that participants will be running from Veterans’ Square to the veterans’ memorials as well as the fact that our veterans have climbed a lot of hills for us, and us doing so is our thanks to them,” he said.

Of course, today’s event is geared to the entire family, and in addition to the 5K there will be a Kids’ K race for children 10 and under as well as a Mascot Invitational that will feature mascots from area schools, businesses and organizations facing off in a 100-meter dash.

And for those who don’t feel up to running in the 5K, a two-mile walk will be available that features a more manageable course that will allow participants to turn around before they reach the steepest part of the incline on the Gateway Connector.

Plus, during the 5K run and two-mile walk, spectators can enjoy music on the plaza, and various crafts and activities will be available for children.

“We wanted a festival-like atmosphere to encourage as much participation and involvement from the community as we can,” Weist said.

But the fun won’t overshadow the true purpose of today’s activities, and we encourage everyone to show their support and gratitude to the men and women who have served our country.