By Vanessa Stokes
Organizers are hoping this year’s Austin POWER 5K will attract at least 700 runners and walkers. The fifth annual event will be held Saturday, Sept. 28 in the heart of Austin.
The 3.1 mile race was created to make a difference “outside the norm,” said Malcolm Crawford, one of the event’s organizers.
The goal each year is to turn the spotlight on the many good things happening in Austin – and away from the focus on violence and hardship. Organizers changed the 5K route three years ago because they wanted participants to see a “good representation of Austin.”
“By going back into the community you (participants) get to see beautiful houses … beautiful people, beautiful families, and it’s not all gloom and doom (that’s) reported in the media,” said Crawford, executive director of the Austin African American Business Networking Association and co-owner of Sankofa Cultural Arts Center, 5820 W. Chicago Ave.
Steve M. Epting Sr., senior pastor of Hope Community Church, who has participated each year alongside many members of his church, agrees the event is “more than just a 5K. It’s a movement in Austin to get something done.”
“This is about us getting together and showing that we care about Austin,” said Epting, who hopes this year to field five teams of 10 walkers/runners from his church. “It’s about highlighting what we actually have here. It’s about caring for each other.”
Another aim of this year’s race: To underscore the importance of improving men’s health, especially African American men.
“We got to talk about this (men’s health), we got to do something about this,” Crawford said.
This year’s event is dedicated to the memory of Decon Ywain Fields, who died of a heart attack earlier this year at the age of 56. Fields, a DJ at WVON, was the brother of the Rev. Cy Fields, senior pastor of New Landmark Missionary Baptist Church in East Garfield.
“Sudden death of so many iconic people that we know and love like (Chicago radio legend) Doug Banks and filmmaker John Singleton, it just hits home the lack of attention to black men’s health,” said Crawford, who over the last several months has worked to improve his own health.
Darnell Shields, executive director of Austin Coming Together, sees the 5K as an opportunity to get into shape. “I need to do better about my health,” said Shields, who just turned 46. In past years, he’s begun the race running before slowing his pace to a walk. His goal this year: to run a few more blocks and walk less.
The year’s race ambassador is Marshawn Feltus, an Austin resident and yoga instructor. Just shy of his 18th birthday, Feltus was sentenced to nearly 40 years in prison for first-degree murder. He used his time in prison to learn, and to mentor and tutor fellow inmates in basic education and life skills. Now Feltus works as a yoga instructor for ACT Yoga in Austin.
Newly added to this year’s Austin 5K will be a fun run for kids ages 10 and under, which starts before the race tipoff at 8:30 a.m.
The race route begins at the corner of Mayfield and Chicago avenues; goes south on Mayfield to Race Avenue; east on Race to Menard; north on Menard to Chicago; east on Chicago to Lamon Avenue; and west on Chicago to the finish line at Mayfield and Chicago.
To learn more about participating in the race or volunteering, click here. The race is $35 for individuals, or $300 for a group of 10 people.