By Cathy Wood/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – While Gum Tree 10k runners pound it out on the course, family and friends wait it out at the finish line.
“Nervous. We’re very nervous,” said friends Susan Edwards and Jennifer Hester, of Okolona, huddled under an umbrella near the Fairpark archway while waiting for the first runners to appear.
Edwards was watching for her 21-year-old son, Cole Edwards, a student at Ole Miss, and her 16-year-old daughter, Mary-Michael Edwards, both running their first 10k. Hester’s husband had planned to run but was home sick, so she was supporting the Edwards family.
“I can’t wait to see my kids cross the finish line,” said Edwards, scanning the straightaway that led to the race’s end. “They were nervous, too, before the race. But excited.”
Elizabeth Berry of Tupelo, was at Fairpark supporting her daughter, 13-year-old Claudia Berry – and all the other runners, too: A BancorpSouth employee, Berry volunteered to hand out post-race fruit with co-workers.
“It’s so fun to help out,” she said, “and see the runners come through with big smiles on their faces. They’re so proud of what they’ve done.”
As mom of a young runner, Berry’s role at home is taxi driver.
“Claudia is very motivated and eats well, so my main job is driving her to where she needs to be,” said Berry, laughing.
Cheerleading was Pat Henson’s assignment.
A member of Harrisburg Baptist Church in Tupelo, Henson was at the finish line waiting for her daughter, Kim Edwards, 34, and others from the church’s Love Sunday School Class who had decided to run together.
“I’m here to cheer them on,” Henson said, “and to make sure my daughter is hydrated and eats something after the race.”
Sisters Robin Martin and Rina Vasquez were waiting for family, too – Vasquez’s son Jordan Daniel, 8, in a wheelchair, and Martin’s husband, Allie Martin, pushing 8-year-old Will Elam.
Jordan, who can’t walk, has motivated his whole family to get involved with running, his mom and his aunt said.
“Jordan has been pushed in several races but he wanted to attempt this one on his own. He’s done 5ks for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis to get ready, and he inspired Allie to push other children who can’t run,” Robin Martin said.
When Jordan and his brother, 12-year-old Trevor Walker, crossed the finish line, the family erupted in applause.
“It feels great to see him finish,” Vasquez said, blinking away a tear. “He was excited to do this, and it means so much to all of us.”