AP NEWS

Run United runner races toward the Olympics; annual event supports United Way of Aiken County

April 28, 2018

Aiken, 2018. Tokyo, 2020?

Shawanna White of Columbia was the first female to finish Saturday’s Aiken Electric Cooperative’s Touchstone Energy Run United Half Marathon.

But the PE teacher at St. Matthews K-8 School is racing toward a bigger goal: to qualify to run in the full marathon at the 2020 summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

To achieve her goal, she’ll have to run the 26.2 miles in 2:45:00 or faster, and she’s almost there.

“So far, I’ve run 2:45:19, so I’ve just got to get rid of those few little seconds, and I’ll be going to the trials, which are in Atlanta in 2020, and that’s where I’m from,” White said just after winning Saturday’s race.

White, 38, said she will go for the Olympics trials standard next at the Vermont City Marathon during Memorial Day weekend in Burlington, Vermont.

Until then, she said she’ll be racing almost every weekend to train. She’ll run two races today [SUNDAY APRIL 29] in Myrtle Beach: a 5K and a 10K.

A first-timer at Run United, White said she enjoyed running the 13.1-mile course, which wound from Park Avenue in downtown Aiken through the campus of Schofield Middle School, past historic churches, over the dirt roads of the horse district and on to the turf of the Whitney polo before returning to the finish line on Newberry Street.

“I really liked how they cheered for us out there. They were amazing,” White said. “And the band - I thought that was awesome.”

As many as 500 volunteers worked the course, including about 70 students from Aiken County Public Schools’ combined bands who for played for the runners as they raced through the polo field.

Ricky Flynn of Greenville was the first male runner to finish the Run United Half Marathon with a time of 1:09:59.

Ethan Kurilko, 14, or Grovetown, Georgia, was the first male runner to finish the 5K race with a time of 18:22:58. Bethany Fordham, 20, of Groton, Massachusetts, was the first female runner to finish the 5K with a time of 20:31.

About 100 children ran in the One-Mile Kids’ Fun Run.

About 800 runners from more than 20 states, including Hawaii, participated in this year’s race, said Keyatta Priester, the race director and the community development manager with Aiken Electric Cooperative.

Run United, in its seventh year, supports the United Way of Aiken County and its partner agencies. The half marathon became part of the program three years ago.

“It just fills your heart with such joy to know that the people in this community care so much about the quality of life of our community and helping others who aren’t as blessed as they are,” United Way President Sharon Rodgers said just after the half-marathoners left the starting line. “We’re having a good time. We’re raising money for a good cause. And we are running and living united.”

Rodgers said the United Way of Aiken County helps more than 200,000 people a year through its partners and 45 critical-need programs in education, health, financial stability and crisis assistance.

Run United has raised more than $100,000, and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the United Way of Aiken County, Priester said.

“And the United Way is a good steward of those dollars,” she added. “We come together, especially when it comes to helping those who are in need. Today’s event is not about Aiken Electric Coop. This is not just about a road race. We are helping our local community.”

“It’s truly about what people love about Aiken and why we’ve been named Southern Living’s Best Small Town in the South.”