Despite rain soaked clothes and slippery streets, runners remain enthusiastic and determined. Energy rises as the Edison Festival of Lights 5K race is underway. Racers enjoy their last moments of conversation and sips of water in between stretches. Navigating through the crowd, we are introduced to Demitria, a 13-year-old Lee County resident, who is quite possibly the most high energy of all in attendance. Demitria’s contagious enthusiasm attracts our team to engage in conversation with her. In our exchange, we learn that Demitria is not only an avid runner and athlete, but also an advocate. Her mother, Melissa, discovered she was HIV positive when she found out she was pregnant with Demitria. Considered a miracle baby, Demitria was miraculously born HIV negative. When she is not running or playing soccer, Demitria joins her family to advocate for individuals affected by HIV. Being active helps Demitria keep her mind off of the hardships at home. She elaborates, “[Being active] also helps me to get out and be a supporter and make memories.”
Passion is the theme of the morning. Each contestant brings their own unique sense of purpose. Some are driven by charitable efforts, while others run simply for the thrill of a challenge. Families line the street in support, awaiting a glimpse of their champion passing by. Some contestants liven up the atmosphere sporting fun outfits and accessories. As the race begins, amid a sea of sneakers bouncing steadily off the pavement, a bright pink tutu surfaces. Graphic tees illustrate lighthearted puns containing honest remarks such as, “after this I am sitting” adding to the eccentric nature of the morning.
Spirits are lifted as runners complete their journey to the finish line. A roar of applause surfaces and smiles spread across the faces of each newly accomplished contestant. Greeted with water and proud family and friends, runners relish their accomplishment. Next stop for most: the closest nearby bench.