It was dawn on Feb. 24 and a stampede was forming in the Nonahood.
The Longhorn Stampede had been planned by Angela Palacio, the Vice President of Events for the Laureate Park Elementary PTA and the organizer of the 5K, and several others since September of 2017. The money raised would benefit the students and teachers and the overall school needs for Laureate Park Elementary. “We work with the teachers to provide grants and other supplies that will enhance the school experience of the students,” Palacio stated about the PTA.
As Lake Nona is being shaped and molded by living a healthy lifestyle, a 5K was the perfect way to get lots of attention and involvement for a school fundraiser. “Living a healthy lifestyle has become an important part of today’s society and leading by example is just as important. We wanted to provide a fun event that would bring the whole family together,” said Palacio.
This 5K sure did bring families together as I saw plenty of parents running with their children, biking or running alongside them and an abundance of strollers. Palacio told me there were over 100 spectators as well, so if the whole family wasn’t running, they were cheering on the sidelines.
“It was important for us to create an event of this size that was organized, but also fun! We wanted this event to be something the entire community would get involved with both as participants in the run and entertainment during the race. We were able to involve many of our school clubs and bring focus to our awesome Longhorn students! The chorus sang the national anthem, the safety patrols and student government helped cheer along the course and the dance and karate after-school programs provided entertainment after the race. We did not have any specific financial goals. We were more focused on creating an event that would bring families together,“ said Palacio.
Creating the first of a future annual event can be pretty challenging, but Palacio and her team were able to manage and turn out a quality event. “It was a perfect blend of nervousness and excitement! There was a lot of pressure to make our first 5K a success – something that people would want to attend and would have a good time when they were there. We have an extremely supportive community and lots of helping hands. It was our goal to keep this first event manageable and to be able to evaluate what areas worked well and how we can add to it for future years. We already have our list started for 2019 on how we are going to take it to the next level!”
The best way to write about an event is to take part in it yourself and that’s exactly what I did. I arrived at Laureate Park Elementary fully aware of what I was getting myself into, but also forgetting how long it’s been since I ran. It’s been awhile, folks, and I’ll be the first to admit that I am in fact, not a runner, but I’ll always try my hardest. I received my race number of 278 and my Longhorn Stampede t-shirt and officially looked the part. Runners/walkers were gathered to do stretches to loosen up a bit and prepare our bodies for the long journey ahead.
Nine AM neared and we gathered by the starting line right behind the school. Younger children had the option to ride their bikes and scooters, and boy was I wishing I had one…The countdown commenced and I, as well as the other 200+ runners/walkers, was off. I was hoping my upbeat music would help me push through, but eventually my struggling to breathe took precedence. I nearly completed the first mile when I had to stop and walk to gather myself again. From that moment, it became a stop/start method where I’d pick a house or sign in the distance and set that as my new stopping or starting point. I was going to get through this 5K one way or another.
My legs were burning and so were my lungs. It was 77 degrees out and I, just like every other participant, was dripping in sweat. Our hard work was evident through the sopping wet t-shirts. Have I mentioned that I hate running in general, but running in FL is so much worse? Because it is in my opinion.
The path took 5Kers all the way to right behind the Publix at Lake Nona Plaza and had us circle right back to return to the elementary school. I gradually passed the mile 2 sign and was ready to see that final mile 3 sign. I turned back into the school parking lot and the finish line was officially in sight. I made sure I finished the 5K running. It was the least I could do. I was awarded my medal and was handed a freezing cold towel, a water bottle and a banana. What a great way to end my exhaustion.
Upon returning home, I could feel the pain in my knees. My body was not used to this and the next couple of days would be rough and I would be sore. Well readers of Nonahood News, as I write this, it’s the next morning and I can barely walk. My knees are better, but my thighs are on fire. Would I do it again? Absolutely.