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Victory For All

Hurst Mustang Pace Car
Hurst Mustang Pace Car

Most of you know that Sunday, December 13 was – in addition to race day – my 61st birthday. I never let up on the guys from Woodhouse who showed up with the gorgeous 2010 Hurst Mustang Pace car. It has a custom Hurst supercharger that raises output to 435 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque, 20-inch polished forged aluminum wheels with gold-painted center spokes, and BF Goodrich’s g-Force KDW tires. Eibach provided a special handling package that improves the power and grip. Included in this package are Hurst-tuned coil-over dampers and upgraded anti-roll bars. If you notice a brawny engine note, that’s due to a Magnaflow custom exhaust.

OK, most of you don’t car a thing about that last paragraph, but I did and kept asking if I was getting the car as a birthday present. I wasn’t. The car will be offered for sale at the Barrett-Jackson auction with the proceeds going to the Victory Junction Camp. Hey, I guy can dream, right?

You can also see that the weather wasn’t perfect on race day. It was cold and drizzly all day long. It didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the participants, and in fact, we had the largest crowd ever for a Run to Victory.

Kyle Petty giving invocation
Kyle Petty giving invocation

Part of what makes this race so special is the passion of Kyle and Pattie Petty. Their lives are full enough without giving up a Sunday to come out and cheer for a bunch of runners, but that’s exactly what they do. We gave Kyle a hard time about how the NASCAR drivers would be sitting in their motorhomes on a rainy day, but the we – RUNNERS AND WALKERS – go out in any weather to race.

And that’s exactly what we did. The rain let up just a little bit as we gathered at the start. After an invocation by Kyle and a stirring rendition of the National Anthem by Trumpet Soloist of THE United States Army Band by Terry Bingham [in full dress uniform] we sent nearly 1,000 runners and walkers on their 5 mile or half marathon journey to the Victory Junction Camp.

Their spirits were boosted by the knowledge that with the support of Wal-Mart’s transportation division, the race registration fees, and fund-raising, the total amount of money raised by the event was over $122,000. That works out to over $1,200 per participant on average. A very generous group of runners and walkers.

Jacob Half Marathon
Jacob Half Marathon

This race is emotional on a lot of levels. The camp was the dream of young Adam Petty [Adam’s Dream] Kyle and Pattie’s son who was killed in a practice accident nearly 10 years ago. As Kyle says, they lost one child but got 11,000 children in return. Kyle and Pattie’s commitment to keeping the dream alive is an inspiration to everyone around them. And I’m no exception.

Every year has a story. This year it was Jacob’s story. A camper himself he had completed the 5 mile course in past years. This year, he was determined to complete the half marathon. And he would not be denied.

The rain made the street slick, which meant his crutches slipped with nearly every step. He was NOT going to be denied. Young Jacob dug deep and found the courage and strength he needed to finish the half marathon in just a little over 4 hours. It was as impressive an athletic achievement as I have ever seen.

In the end, that’s what brings me back every year. I have been fortunate that running community and the running industry has been so generous to me. I’ve been given more than I could ever have expected. It’s in that spirit of gratitude that I continue to donate my time and energy to the Run to Victory. As the camp motto says, it “makes my heart race”.

Waddle on.

John “the Penguin” Bingham, columnist
Author, The Courage to Start, No Need for Speed, Marathoning for Mortals and Running for Mortals.