Save the Date!
- Unity Run XXVII - Tuesday, September 29, 2020
No one imagined at the first Unity Run meeting held by Rebecca Owen, Executive Director of United Way, in the Spring of 1994, would begin a race that would last 24 years. Started as a Kick-off event for United Way of Gordon County Fund Campaign to involve lots of people, the run has become a tradition for Gordon County. The run was the brainchild of Dave Raley, a United Way Board of Directors member. Originally the Unity Run route was to unite the two high schools in one race. The runners would start at Calhoun High School and finish at Gordon Central High School. This route lasted for several years, but the railroad tracks that crossed Line St. presented a problem - someone had to hold the trains until all the runners had crossed the tracks. As the number of runners and walkers increased each year, the time for holding the trains became longer so a new route had to be set. The second route was the former Gordon Hospital Fun Run route. It started at Gordon Central, crossed Red Bud Rd. onto Curtis Parkway, turned into Devonwood for a run around the block, and back to Gordon Central High School. The hills made it a very challenging run but discouraged the slower runners and walkers who would meet the faster runners coming out of Devonwood before they got off Curtis Parkway. This route lasted until 2006. The 2006 race was the poorest attended run in Unity Run history. 400 runners crossed the finish line and there was some discussion about whether the Unity Run had “run its course” and needed to end. In 2007 a new route ending in Downtown Calhoun was created. The route started at Gordon Central High School, continued through Calhoun and ended with a big finish line party on the east side of the railroad tracks at the corner of Park Ave. and Court St. This is still the route for the Unity Run. All three routes were certified and were part of the Run and See Georgia Grand Prix racing series.
The very first Unity Run was a tremendous success. Rebecca Owen and Charisse Brookshire, her assistant, along with board members and other volunteers prepared for months. The night before the race Rebecca realized that there were not enough shirts for all the runners to receive when they finished so she was out buying every white t-shirt in town and taking them to the printer to have enough. “Open Your Heart” was the very first t-shirt. The race was a huge success and involved well over 1000 runners, walkers, and volunteers. At one time the Unity Run was the largest 5K run north of Atlanta. There were competitions among small businesses, major firms, banks, and schools. Some of those participation competitions are still on-going. Although no one has kept up with all the statistics, the consensus is that several Gordon Countians and others have run in every race. Vicki Jastram, (20), Calhoun City Schools, Gordon County Schools, Mary Taylor, have been involved for all 24 years along with many others. Sponsors have been tremendous throughout the years. Two sponsors have been with the Unity Run for all 24 years Mohawk and Georgia Bank and Trust.
For many years the race was held on the Thursday evening in August before the first football game. As the start of the school year moved back toward the beginning of August the run was moved to Tuesday night. This avoided football conflicts. The Unity Run continued in August until 2008 when the United Way of Gordon County Board of Directors listened to the runners and changed the date to the last Tuesday in September. The cooler date has been more enjoyable for the runners and walkers.
Starting in 2007 with the new route ending in downtown Calhoun, the Board decided to try a 1K Kids for children from ages Pre-K to fifth grade. The 1K Run would start at Gordon Central and finish on the track at Ratner Stadium. Now in its eleventh year, the 1K has grown to about 100 runners. For many years the entire Gordon Central Football Team would stand at the entrance to the track cheering the runners. John Rainwater, head track coach at Gordon Central, designed the route and organizes the event. The naming sponsor for the 1K is AGC Pediatrics.
Over the years changes have occurred but one constant has been the United Way agencies standing on the route cheering on the runners. They are in different places but still there. The agencies and the support from the City of Calhoun and Gordon County Law Enforcement, Fire Department, EMS, Calhoun City Schools, Gordon County Schools, Calhoun Times, WEBS, WJTH, Cherokee Capital Radio Society, Carpet Capital Running Club, and DJ Donny Holmes have made the race a success. They have been involved so long that they know what to do without directions.
Other additions have been the school cheerleaders at the finish line cheering on the runners, the Gordon Central Blue Wave Band sending the runners off playing “Rocky” and have started the race with the National Anthem for several years. The flag was held by a City of Calhoun Utility department bucket truck. At the BB&T Park the Sonoraville High School Band plays and at the finish line, Calhoun High School Band greets the runners.
A true community event, the Unity Run is just a lot of fun for a great cause. So, join your friends, neighbors, and family members for Unity Run XXVI September 24, 2019, 1K Kid’s Run 5:00 & 5K Run/Walk at 6:30. Buses run before the race from downtown Calhoun to Gordon Central. Participants must park downtown before the race and ride the buses to Gordon Central.