John Howell’s Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It was fun run, not the Fun Run, and that’s good thing

The 5K Run was a well-coordinated addition to Batesville’s annual SpringFest. And it was fun!

Visiting recently in our files from 20 years ago gave me a perspective to appreciate how well the race was run. Back then and for a number of years, this newspaper, in conjunction with the city parks department, sponsored the Batesville Fun Run.

As I watched runners cross the finish line Saturday, I much appreciated the digital devices attached to runners’ shoestrings. Every time a runner crossed the finish line, his or her time was digitally recorded nearby. In the days of the Fun Run, we hovered around a stopwatch and frantically wrote times when multiple runners crossed about the same time.

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Now, all the participants’ names and their times are posted for all the world to see immediately after the race at

We often give kudos to people who do a good job, but what in the heck is a kudo anyway? Does it cause allergic reactions or how often do you have to feed it.

So maybe a “thumbs up” is a more appropriate gesture for David Smith, Meredith Fleming and Perrin Caldwell, and others who worked to make the 5K go smoothly.

And Meredith’s work is not yet done. She asked that we pass along the following information:

“If you signed up for the 5K and were not able to race or did not pick up your race shirt, you may pick up your race shirts at Panola Partnership until Tuesday, May 27th.  This does not include racers who requested a refund.  No more refunds will be issued.”

Panola Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons had said earlier in the week that when planning began for the 5K run, the organizers had hoped for 100 participants.

By starting time Saturday morning there were over 215 who registered and even more who just jumped in and ran (or walked) unregistered.

Starting time was 8 a.m., but of course there was a train. A freight train passing through the downtown square has become the signature for a Batesville event, but race organizers were on top of it. They communicated with Canadian National and allowed a southbound freight to pass through before starting the race and risking interruption.

(Police were also in touch with CN the night before, coordinating the very slow passage of a northbound freight through the Friday night food and entertainment)

And as if the 5K run and SpringFest were not enough to coordinate, the Partnership and Batesville Main Street also hosted a visiting film crew.

Planet Grandé Productions on behalf of ABC News in a joint project with People Magazine started following eight presumably portly Mississippians in January. Their work will be in a documentary that monitors their weight loss, producer Marnie Perez told me.

The “Mississippi Eight” were first photographed last January in Vicksburg. The final product will likely be aired late this year, but everything is tentative, Perez said. She said that Planet Grandé will keep Fleming at the Partnership informed so that she can pass along to us the program’s scheduling information.

Which brings us to the noticeable contrast between the crowd of runners and fans who gathered for the 5K run and those who in the crowd that kept gathering as the day eased toward afternoon and then evening. That early morning bunch — runners and walkers of course, but even their fans — were much leaner that those later in the day.

What can we say? Funnel cakes, fried pies, barbecue, French fries — we’re determined to follow each other off the cliff like lemmings, round, portly lemmings.

Maybe next year will find more of us among those early Saturday morning runners. Then we can enjoy the funnel cakes, fried pies, barbecue, French … and so on with less guilt.

Back to the Fun Run. We kept adding events. The last year, we included a track field events for all ages. We vastly underestimated the amount of time it would take to allow all who registered to participate.

We finally finished about 2 a.m. on Sunday morning after having started about 8 a.m. on a Saturday. As we left the football field in those wee hours, my brother and I gave each other that knowing, “never again” glance.