1024 Hernando Water Tower 10K start LEAD ART.JPG

Runners leave the starting line of the Hernando Water Tower 10K road race on Oct. 12. Nearly 500 participants took part in the 6.22 mile run held for the 10th time in the DeSoto County seat. Proceeds benefit the Hernando Excel By 5 Dolly Parton Imagination Library literacy program.

DeSoto County becomes awash with running events in both the fall and the spring. While giving the runners their chance for exercise and to cut down personal times, the events are usually meant to raise funds for meaningful purposes.

While most race events are five-kilometers in length, or 3.11 miles, the Water Tower 10K in Hernando becomes one of the very few events to double that and plot a 10-kilometer (6.22 mile) course for the runners to challenge.

This year’s Oct. 12 race also provided the meaningful purpose of early childhood literacy some additional money for the Hernando Excel By 5 program, said race organizer Gia Matheny, the city’s Community Development Director.

The local Excel By 5 Dolly Parton Imagination Library program is where the race proceeds go.

“It started with about 80-some-odd people 10 years ago and we had 480 this week who registered,” Matheny said. “We increased by about 100 people this year and we hope to increase it by another 100 next year.”

Not only did the run provide money for that program, which provides children up to age five books to read on a regular basis until they enter kindergarten, Matheny said the runners are also attracted to the DeSoto County seat for other reasons.

“This is a sports tourism driver for the city,” Matheny explained. “Although the main goal is to raise funds and awareness to early literacy throughout our Imagination Library, it also is a great opportunity for people to get to come and visit Hernando and spend time here over the weekend.”

The race indirectly also benefited a music festival taking place in Hernando the same day.

“We promote the Front Porch Jubilee as an event and we also promote the Hampton Inn and we give them a discount code for the race,” Matheny explained. “We had runners being turned away because the hotel was at full capacity because of everything that was going on this weekend.”

Making the race a 10 kilometer run instead of a five-kilometer event makes the Water Tower 10K unique and more attractive to the skilled runner.

“When you do have a long distance race you attract the more advanced runner,” said Matheny. “However, we always take walkers and we have walkers every year, just because they love the race and they love the venue.”

The run winds its way through the streets of Hernando, guided by law enforcement and fire department paving the way and keeping participants safe on the route.

This year’s finishing runners also received a special award for winning.

“Instead of just giving a medal or a trophy for placing, each top finisher in each age category receives a handmade pottery plate from Joseph Echols, one of our local potters,” Matheny explained. “We use this as an opportunity to also show off one of our local artisans here in Hernando. To me, that is something unique to Hernando and Mississippi.”

Youngsters led the way to the finish line, as David Trip Cox of Southaven was the top male finisher in a time of 37:08.29, and Hernando runner Jessica Cartwright took the top female award in a time of 41:25.94.

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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