A Family Affair: Recap of the Ellie Helton Memorial 5K

Note from Adam: Since my wife brought up the idea of running this race, I asked her to write the recap and she graciously obliged. There’s a bonus post from our daughter embedded towards the end. Enjoy!

A few weeks ago our family ran the second annual Ellie Helton Memorial
5K at Wake Med Soccer Park in Cary, NC. This was the first 5k for Monkey (age 7) and Cottontail (age 6). They had both expressed interest in the distance and when we looked at options this one came to mind because of the charity it supports.

One of my co-workers and his family organize the race in memory of their daughter, Ellie Helton.  Ellie was a vibrant, loving 14-year-old who passed away on July 16, 2014 as a result of a brain aneurysm. She loved God, her family and friends, superheroes, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and pizza. She was a unique spirit who loved life, was accepting of others and persevered in everything she tried. You can read about her from her family’s website.

It’s a good cause and was the right distance, so we all signed up. Adam agreed to push Coach in the stroller to make sure everyone could participate.  The race was on Saturday, October 15 at WakeMed Soccer Park and did not start until 9:30am. I appreciated the later start, especially because the kids had a sleepover at their grandparents’ house the night before and needed a little longer than normal to wake up.

When we arrived, the kids’ fun zone was in full swing, with a DJ, bounce
houses, crafts, balloon animals, and face painting.  Superheroes and local sports mascots milled about, and many of the runners came in costume or wearing pink, Ellie’s favorite color. There was also a silent auction that we didn’t check out. I broke the usual rule of not wearing the race shirt to the race because I loved its bright pink color.

Adam and I agreed I’d run with Monkey (as much as I could keep up!) and he’d push the stroller and run with Cottontail. Adam tends to have more patience for Cottontail’s apprehension before new experiences (she sometimes has to be coaxed off the starting line). We put everyone’s bibs on and lined up at the start. Kids from a local dance studio led a warm-up dance; I participated but Monkey was all business. I told him to wait for me at the finish, and we were off.

The course took us along the cross country trails at WakeMed Soccer Park. It was a sunny, cool day perfect for running. I kept Monkey in my sights for about the first 1K and then didn’t see him again until the end of the race when I spotted him from the bottom of the last large hill. He broke thirty minutes and ended up finishing about forty seconds ahead of me. I gave him a high five and helped him get his official time from the computer near the finish line.

Finishers were greeted with a certificate and superhero-themed rice krispie treat from a volunteer. There were cookies, bananas, and water and more fun zone activities after the race. Monkey and I watched for Adam, Cottontail and Coach. When we saw them, we started cheering. I was so proud of Monkey and Cottontail. The course was hilly, and they did great. While Monkey’s a very natural runner, Cottontail is determined and has a fire in her eyes to meet challenges.  She took a few minutes to write up her experience with the race:

I ran a 5k and I ran with my dad! I was 7th in my age group and after the race I got a cookie!! My dad ran some more laps and I got a bib. It was fun.

I knew from my official time that I had placed second in my age group (a major first for me) so we hung around for the awards. The top three finishers overall and in each age group received medals and gift cards to Fleet Feet. I found out I’d only missed first in my age group by about thirty seconds, so of course I did the thing I always do after races of wishing I’d pushed myself just a little more (pushing myself to run faster isn’t my running M.O.), but I was still happy to place.

Overall, it was a great first 5K for Monkey and Cottontail for a wonderful
cause; we would definitely run this again. I didn’t know Ellie, but the event seemed to capture her spirit  and was a very uplifting and fun family event that raised over $50,000 for the Brain Aneurysm Foundation.

And in an auspicious sign of things to come, after the race Adam asked Monkey and Cottontail if they wanted to do the 1-mile fun run or the 5K at an upcoming Turkey Trot; neither hesitated before saying the 5K. We’re proud that they had fun and want to continue challenging themselves. Stay tuned for new PRs!

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