OGDEN -- On Thursday morning, participants burned off a few hundred calories before their Thanksgiving feasts, at Ogden Regional Medical Center's annual run/walk. Runners and walkers -- a total of 858 of them -- donated nonperishable food items and approximately $4,000 to the Ogden Rescue Mission, the Salvation Army and St. Anne's shelter.
Sister Stephanie Mongeon had planned to return for the race, which she had been a part of for the past 27 years before returning to St. Benedict's Monastery in Minnesota in June, but plans fell through, and her absence was felt by all.
"I think she added a lot to it," said the Rev. Charles Cummins of the Newman Center, adding jokingly, "I think she's going to be the first woman on Mount Rushmore."
Though Sister Stephanie was absent, the spirit of the event remained the same. Cummins joked that without guidance from Sister Stephanie, he would be handing out Rolexes and Lexuses at the finish line, but he wasn't joking when he credited the spirit of the annual run/walk to the people of Utah.
"There's just an outstanding spirit here," said Cummins. "I think the spirit is wonderful. The people are really good. There's just something about the people of Utah -- they want to give."
Cummins said that in a day and age when people commonly read about rip-offs and scam telephone calls, it's nice to see people giving to a good cause and knowing that their generosity is making a difference and going to its intended beneficiaries.
"We get telephone calls, you never know what it's all about, people want money for this or that," Cummins said. "These people want to give, and they know where it's going to go. It's a wonderful community spirit. They're giving witness to other people as they are seeing them running or walking. Plus they're giving of their bounty to help people. It is a wonderful thing, and I've always believed that service to others is the rent we pay for the time spent on earth. If you want to feel good, make other people feel good, and they're doing that."
Rebecca Bennion and Heather Loughton reveled in the feel-good sensations of friendship and runner's high as they tied for second place.
"We just came out to run together," Loughton said. "I've been coming for probably five years, and I talked Rebecca into it this year. We came out to be with friends and be thankful that we can do it -- can run and be with who we love."
"And to be able to share what we have with other people and get together," Bennion added. "It's a good way to start the day. Plus, now we can eat more today, too."
The top three finishers for the women were Merrilee Blackham with 29 minutes, 27 seconds; Rebecca Bennion and Heather Loughton tied at 32 minutes, 16 seconds; and Sue Turley with 32 minutes, 20 seconds.
The top three finishers for the men were Cade Perry with 26 minutes, 10 seconds; Robbie Tripp with 27 minutes, 28 seconds; and Mike Loughton with 28 minutes, 14 seconds.