Pace the Priest 5k unites community

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Runners gather for a pre-race prayer by Pastor Mark Rutherford. Photo by Eli Atzenhoffer.

On a chilly morning on Oct. 12, participants in the Pace the Priest 5k gathered for a pre-race prayer before setting off on their run. As runners took their place at the starting line, a group of children lined the sidewalk cheering for friends and family members embarking on a scenic journey through Williamston.

The history of the race

The Pace the Priest 5k was ran for the 10th time. Jayme Bisard, the director of the race, said it has been a tradition for the church.

“Before it was called Pace the Priest it was the St. Mary’s 5k,” she said.

Bisard and her husband took over as director of the event four years ago after participating and working for many other local races.

Pastor of the St. Mary’s church, Father Mark Rutherford, is a big reason for the name change. Rutherford competes in different races including the popular Ironman challenges as fundraisers for the church’s youth group.

“Once folks saw that I was a runner,” he said. “Renaming it and adding a little bit of a contest to it would be fun.”

Participants who were 13 years old or younger received a prize if they finished the race before Father Rutherford.

The race has drawn more participants each year. In 2017, 99 runners finished the race.

“This year we had 97 pre-registered runners,” Bisard said. “We have approximately 130 with walk ups.”

The 2019 race

Runners of the Pace the Priest 5k begin the race. Photo by Eli Atzenhoffer.

It only took Jim Palmer, the St. Mary’s School cross country coach,a little more than 15 minutes to get past the finish line first. He said he enjoys running to support the school.

“My kids, both of them have went here so probably my fifth or sixth time (running),” he said.

The main concern for the race was the weather. Despite the forecast of rain, Bisard said the weather ended up being perfect for runners.

“We were worried about rain all week and then it wound up holding off,” Bisard said. “This is beautiful weather for runners.”

“It was a nice cool day, no rain, nice course,”  Palmer said. “It was fun.”

Bringing people together

Rutherford’s favorite part of the race is bringing the members of the school, parish, and wider community together to compete and interact.

“Seeing the joy on the parent’s faces as they see their kids have fun and cross that finish line is priceless,” he said.

Father Rutherford said people can learn a lot from a race like Pace the Priest.

“The race teaches the children to grow in respect of others, honestly, humility, and recognition of others accomplishments,” he said. “Athletic events like a 5k bring people together as friends, or people become friends during the race.”

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