DOUBLE SPRINGS - The Run to Jesus 5K and Fun Walk will be held Saturday, March 25, at the Winston County High School track.
The idea behind the event is to bring people together to get closer to God, explained organizer Heather Holcomb, but people are also welcome to come out just to run or walk.
“You don’t have to run to participate,” she said. “You can walk, roll in style in a wheelchair or skip to the lou in the fun walk.” She pointed out that there is a driveway down to the WCHS track that people can use to bypass the stadium stairs.
People can also participate by volunteering or donating either money or supplies, she said. Bottled water donations in particular may be left on the porch of New Hope at Mt. Ebron Church at 3344 County Road 25.
“(Double Springs Fire Chief) Erik ilbreath told me that there’ll be volunteer first responders there,” Holcomb said.
Volunteers are still needed to provide music and help with on-site registration, managing the schedule and cheering on and encouraging the participants.
“The main goal would be to have a giant outdoor church service with running, except not everyone has to run,” Holcomb said. There will be singers, including Sherry Bell and Crystal Miles, and Steve Wakefield, pastor of New Hope at Mt. Ebron, will open the event with prayer and later deliver a message.
“If anyone else wants to volunteer to sing, they’re welcome to do so,” Holcomb said.
The idea for the event came to Holcomb one day while she was eating lunch. She had been thinking that “our nation as a whole has been running in the wrong direction” and felt the need to do something. Then she read, “Success is a team sport,” on a fortune cookie fortune.
“It just hit me about doing a 5K for God,” she said. “You can literally run to God. But it's more; it's not really about running. It's about getting back to God and getting closer.”
Holcomb started running as a way to improve her declining health, she said. She said she’s had to overcome multiple surgeries. “Some days, (it) felt amazing to be outside and feel the wind blow by me. Other days, I couldn’t run and just prayed through it.”
Holcomb said she prays before she starts a run and then constantly during a run for the strength to keep going. “When your body's given up, and you're asking God to give you strength, it is the greatest feeling of knowing how he's helping you and how you're getting closer to him at the same time. Then, when you get back, knowing that God brought you through it, it is like—it's brought me closer to God,” she said. “Even if just one person experiences that, you know, that's what I'm really hoping for is just to reach that one person.”
That day at lunch, Holcomb asked God, “How can we help?” And what came to mind was “feed America.” She looked that phrase up online and discovered Feeding America, the largest hunger-relief program in the U.S. According to its last annual report, it provided 5.2 billion meals in fiscal year 2022.
So, any funds from entry fees or donations that are left after the event costs are covered will be donated to Feeding America via New Hope at Mt. Ebron.
“I truly feel like it's been Lord led—everything,” Holcomb said. “Anytime that something would seem to go wrong, and there'd be, like, no chance it would happen, it did.” She added, “The Lord, you know, he always shines through, and right when you feel like there's not going to be a way, there's always a way.”
That idea underlies four encouraging bible verses that Holcomb plans to have posted at the 5K on signs made by iShine Designs. Thinking about how important her son’s encouragement is to her when they run together and how much her friend Jessmer Sargent’s encouragement affected her life, Holcomb picked up her Bible and felt led to these scriptures.
“At the beginning of the race, I've got, ‘. . . let us run with patience the race that is set before us’ (Hebrews 12:1). And then, a quarter of the way (will be) ‘But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint’ (Isaiah 40:31). And then the third sign (will read) ‘I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13). I say that one a lot,” Holcomb said. “And then the one at the finish line (will be) ‘But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved’ (Matthew 24:13).”
Despite the effort she’s put into making her lunchtime idea a reality, Holcomb doesn’t want any credit. “This is all glory to God. I don’t want any focus on me,” she said. “It's (about) God and getting people together (and) to God.”
She added, “We have a really great generation of people that like to do things and get involved in things, but maybe not so much at a church, but when you can bring the church outside, it kind of changes things.”
She noted that New Hope at Mt. Ebron holds what they call street services in the summer in the parking lot of the former Gateway shopping center in Double Springs. These will be held every third Saturday starting April 15. “We have singing and preaching, and it's a good time,” Holcomb said, pointing out that people can come as they are but should bring a chair.
She also stressed that everyone is welcome to attend the 5K. “I want everyone to know that everybody can belong here. Even if you don't go to church, or whether you do go to church, if you just want to run, or if you just don't know what it is and just want to sit there and watch, that’s fine too.”
She said she hoped other area churches would get involved in the event. “I feel like if the churches will get involved, then it’ll really set fire.”
Participants may pre-register until March 11 or register the day of the event at 8 a.m. The 5K starts at 8:45 a.m., and a Fun Run/Walk starts at 9:30 a.m. The entry fee is a $10 donation per individual or a $30 family donation for larger households.
Registration forms are available on the event's Facebook page, Run to Jesus 5K and Fun Walk, and at Lilly Abigail’s, iShine Designs, Treasure Hunters and Southern Furniture in Double Springs, Red & Lid’s in Lynn, Food Shack in Addison and Walker Farmers Co-op in Jasper.
Monetary donations may be mailed to Holcomb at 6197 County Road 4, Double Springs, Ala., 35553. For more information, call her at (205) 272-1584.
In the 5K, there will be awards for the first, second and third place runners in seven age divisions, which start at 11 and under and go to 50 and over. The overall fastest male and female runners in both the 5K and the Fun Run/Walk will also receive awards.
Sponsors for the event include Free State Boat Docks Inc., Frances’ Catering and Linens LLC, Gateway Pharmacy, Image Makers, Bristol Haughton Insurance, Wilkins/Winston Home Builders, Liberty Outdoors, Treasure Hunters, Walker Farmers Cooperative Inc., Wood for You, Dixie Flowers, Rising Smoke, Food Shack, Amy’s Hair and Nails and Gina’s Bait, Tackle and Variety.
Additionally, the New Hope at Mt. Ebron youth will clean up after the race.
Holcomb wanted to thank WCHS, New Hope at Mt. Ebron, all volunteers, participants and sponsors and everyone who prays over this event.
Holcomb has set up a virtual run to enable people across the nation to participate online during the month of March. It can be accessed from the Run to Jesus 5K Facebook page.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.