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More than 12,000 runners took part in the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon and miniMarathon on April 24. Out of the thousands of runners taking part, two local residents laced up their shoes and hit the course for a good cause.
Kim Harmon and her brother-in-law, James Staser, both of Springfield, ran in the miniMarathon, placing 3,894 and 1,371 respectively. They didn’t win the race, but they still succeeded in their goal of bringing attention to autism, which is why Harmon decided to take part in the event. Her 14-year-old son, John, has autism, so there was some extra motivation for Harmon and Staser. John is a student at North Washington Elementary School. The proceeds from the runs went to the University of Louisville’s Autism Center.
“He’s a very lucky child because there’s an excellent staff at North that has been working with him for many years, and we absolutely adore them,” Harmon said. “Anybody who knows John loves him. He has an excellent personality. Of course he’s a huge challenge and he has a lot of challenges, but if you know him, you can’t help but love him, and that was obvious when people found out what James and I were doing.”
As word got around about Kim and James’ goal and what it was going to benefit, unsolicited donations came pouring in from John’s school and from Kim’s co-workers at Heaven Hill distillery.
“I didn’t tell anyone I was running,” Harmon added. “They surprised me. John’s school donated about $250 and the people at Heaven Hill donated $300. They did it out of the kindness of their hearts, no one was asked to donate. Overall, including our entry fees, we raised over $700.”
Harmon ran the 13.1-mile course in two hours and 16 minutes, while Staser finished in one hour and 56 minutes.
“It went great. It was a lot of work,” said Harmon. “James is an experienced runner, he’s been running for years. I just started running eight months ago. He helped me train because I set the goal of running the miniMarathon and I knew I was in no shape to do so. With James’ help, we made it, and we ran it without stopping.”
Wesley Korir, a former All-American runner at the University of Louisville, finished the 13.1-mile mini course in one hour, four minutes and 12 seconds to win it for the second consecutive year. But even though he was the first to cross the finish line that day, it was those with autism, along with their families and support systems, who ended up being the real winners.