By Betty Lawrence
Ruben Evans says he is just a good 'ole country boy trying to run a race. The retired Navy man of Deatsville, Ala., now 66, is nearly halfway to his goal of running in at least one race in all 50 states.
Evans began running long distance races 15 years ago. When he runs in the 5K Run/Walk at the Maria Stein Country Fest on Sunday, he will be putting state number 23 in his pocket.
"We like to travel and when I retired, my wife and I decided a good way to see the country would be to race in all the states. She is my scrapbook keeper," Evans said in a recent phone interview from his home in Alabama.
At one time, Evans ran 30-35 races annually, but he is still recuperating from a heart attack suffered in January and has limited his running.
"I have always been an athlete, clear back to when I ran track in high school," he said. "I win about 50 percent of the time in my age group, but I don't do it to win. I just enjoy running." Deats says his most memorable races are the Mayor's Midnight Run in Alaska, which is a half marathon (13.1 miles) and the 8-mile Aloha Run in Hawaii.
"These are both really big races, about 30,000 people in each race. It took me 12 minutes just to get to the start line in the Aloha race," Evans remembered.
This will be his first visit to Mercer County and after the race, Evans and his wife of 47 years, Virginia, will prepare for his next run, possibly in Indiana or South Carolina, he said.
He learned of the Maria Stein race in the Running Times, a publication for runners that lists races throughout the United States.
Race Director Tess Mescher said she is excited to have the Alabama man competing locally.
"We have had runners from as far away as California and we typically have runners from Columbus and Cincinnati. My goal is 400 runners for the race, and I have been as little as 35 shy," she said.
This year, proceeds from the event will go toward State of the Heart Home Health & Hospice Children's Bereavement Camp called Camp BEARable, a bereavement camp for children dealing with the death of someone close to them. Mescher also is provider relations coordinator for the area hospice program.
The 12th annual run/walk begins at 9 a.m. on St. Johns Road near the Country Fest grounds. Participants can compete to break the 15:53 course record or enjoy a leisurely 45-minute course walk. Those seeking a shorter course may join in the Fun Run at 9:45 a.m. on a separate route.
Race day registration is $10 for the race only. Fun Run registration is $2 the day of or $11 pre-registration, which includes a t-shirt.