At 5:00AM on April 22, 2017, staff and volunteers began unpacking and setting up for VIA’s 18th Annual Run for Autism 5K at Charlottesville High School. It was still dark, and weather forecasts all over Central Virginia foretold impending storms, but for the nearly 1100 runners, walkers, volunteers, and spectators who came out regardless, the experience was well worth it. The rain held off, the races came together without a hitch, and the post-race snacks were abundant.
Aided by over 80 community volunteers, the race featured three ¼ mile kids’ races, organized by age group, and a 5K course for runners and walkers that meandered the leafy neighborhood surrounding Charlottesville High School. The fastest overall finisher was Burt Jacoby (34) who completed the race in 16 minutes and 34 seconds. The fastest overall female finisher, Chelsea Ley (25) completed the race in 18 minutes and 33 seconds. A complete list of race results can be found on the Run for Autism 5K website. Each child who participated in the 5K was awarded a ribbon, and prizes for the age group winners were provided by Hawaiian footwear company Olukai and New Zealand inspired gastro pub, Burger Bach.
But regardless of the weather, the finishing times, the prizes, or the snacks, what makes this race special year after year is the way it creates community. Brad Parks, local novelist and first time participant in the Run for Autism 5K commented, “what makes this event so special is not that it raises money for a good cause, or that it gives people a chance to compete; what makes the Run for Autism 5K an incredible event is that it creates an inclusive community where those who have historically been cast aside become the stars of the show.”
And that’s just it. The Run for Autism 5K is about you, it’s about us, and it’s about community.
Melissa Taylor, a spectator at the race stated, “When the kids turned that last bend and had the finish line in their sights, the crowd started to cheer loudly, and all the runners, no matter their physical abilities, really gave the race every last ounce of energy they had. We are stronger together. The Run for Autism 5K embodies that.”