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Running: Fun thing to be a part of

With over 1,200 Reagan Run finishers and at least twice as many others watching, downtown Dixon was the place to be Saturday morning. That’s where I was for the first time ever in the 19th annual running of this event.

Being an out-of-towner, I don’t partake in events of this nature as much as I’d like, though I still have fond memories of participating in the L.R.B. Chili Cookoff at Plum Hollow 30 years ago.

People in Dixon know how to do things right and like the chili cookoff, the Reagan Run was a blast to be a part of.

That sentiment was expressed to me by another first-timer, George Briones, a visitor from San Benito, Texas.

“It’s a beautiful and exciting course,” Briones said. “In Texas, our races are flat. This had character to it. And, it was very well organized. I want to come back next year.”

After doing races along the coast of California, in the mountains of Utah, the Strip at night in Las Vegas or in front of the million-plus spectators lining the Chicago marathon, I’ve got to agree with George. The Dixon 5K was just as good or better than those races from an organizational angle.

It may not have had the ocean view, but there was a river. No mountains, but we ran in some wooded hills. With video gaming in town, there was even a touch of Las Vegas.

And, the spectators lining the course in Dixon were just as enthusiastic as Chicago. Running alongside Mike Grady for much of the race, I may have even been jealous of all the cheering he was receiving.

Grady and his sons Evan and Collin were one of many family affairs taking place that day. Briones was running along with a daughter from Dixon, a sister from Harlington, TX and a daughter’s sister. The 70 pizzas donated by Mama Ciminos at the finish line – those were provided by his son-in-law Jim Gallantine.

Marcus Mossholder, a 1979 Duke grad, had his best day ever running the Reagan Run. What made it more special than the previous 10 times was being able to do the kids’ fun run with one grandson and the regular run with another.

“It was awesome,” said Mossholder, who first tried to pawn himself off as nearby buddy Ed Love when being interviewed. “To run with a 4-year old and 9-year old was so much fun. Where else can you do that?”

What Mossholder did can only be done in something like running or golf. Most other team sports only allow the opportunity for grandma and grandma to sit in the stands and watch.

I like the point made by Pat Warkins, Newman distance coach and one of many local coaches running the 5K.

“Compared to youth team sports, kids don’t get pushed as much in running. There’s not that pressure,” Warkins said. “They can go at their own pace and not worry about being good enough to make the team. Hopefully, it will become a lifestyle.”

The RR also affords us older guys the chance to chase the young bucks. As a reporter, I actually could compete against some of the young men and women that I had covered.

At the start line, I asked Mark Truesdell of Rock Falls if he planned on beating any of the kids he coached.

“I better not, or we’re going to have problems this year,” he jokingly said.

Compared to the grind of high school track and cross country, the Reagan Run was a chance for everyone to let their hair down and relax. It didn’t matter where a person finished, provided enjoyment was had.

“For me, the highlight is seeing families and kids of people you know,” said Mike Lawton, completing his 15th Reagan Run. “It’s a tradition that has been built into the Fourth of July.”

The event can also serve as a vehicle for new folks moving to town. One of those is Jennifer Lang, who was intently at work cleaning up the post-race food area.

“Nine years ago when I moved here, I didn’t know anybody,” said Lang, who works for the Lee County Council on Aging. “I noticed this particular event was upcoming. I decided to volunteer as a way to get to know people and become more involved in the community. That’s exactly what it did and I will continue to be a part of it until I can’t.”

There you have it. Hats off to the Reagan Run committee and all the volunteers for making it special for every single runner and spectator that comes to Dixon for the race.

Instead of waiting another 30 years, like I did after the chili cookoff, I plan to run next year. By the way, sifting through results, I noticed former chili organizer David Cain, was in my 60-64 age group.

Good to see we’re still hanging together in Dixon, better known as the place where they know how to ‘get ‘er done’.

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