Annual Green 5K rolls along in Wheeling

WHEELING – Ron Green is passionate about everything he does.

It shows in his job as a United States postal worker, it shows when he’s helping his sons’ baseball teams, and it especially shows each summer when the Debbie Green 5K Run/Walk for Leukemia steps off on the streets of downtown Wheeling.

Activities surrounding his year’s ‘Race for a Reason’ are set for Friday and Saturday August 1 and 2 at Heritage Port.

”Everything is back on schedule,” Green said. ”We’re back on our regular weekend.”

The main event – the Debbie Green 5K Run/Walk – is also back to its normal time at 7 p.m.

”Registration is on pace for another banner year,” Green said. ”But it’s still early. Registrations don’t usually start picking up until the second week of July. We’re doing really well.

”We have a lot of new cities this year … getting registrations from a lot of towns we’ve never heard of.”

Green encourages everyone to register as early as possible.

”The earlier people sign up, the better,” he noted.

Race festivities begin at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1 with the Green Mile. It is dedicated to the memory of Anthony ”Undo” Sparachane.

Debbie’s Dash, for kids age 9 and under, will begin activities Saturday, Aug. 2 at 5 p.m.

That event is in honor of Michael Carroll and his Meanies.

This is the 11th year the event is taking place in Wheeling, after beginning in Benwood.

”Everything has been perfect for us at Heritage Port,” Green noted. ”The city’s been wonderful. Last year, they had a police officer on every street corner. It was run to perfection.”

Last year, Mourad Marofit was nearly perfect in claiming his first Debbie Green 5K crown. The 31-year-old Moroccan and former Olympian, competing in his first American race, cruised to the overall championship, shattering the course record, crossing the finish line in 13:46. The time was also a West Virginia best.

Meseret Ritata Tolwak, a 20-year-old native of Ethiopia, won the women’s crown.

Green has received confirmation that Marofit will return to defend his crown. That, Green added, continues the trend of the Debbie Green becoming a destination for top talent.

”(Runners) know this is a good race with a lot of talent and they want to run with the good runners,” he said. ”Once you start getting some good runners, people want to run with the best. You can’t get better if you don’t race against some better.”

The 5K Run/Walk is, for the fourth year, the USA Track and Field Three Rivers Association 5K championship.

”We had around 1,500 registered last year and we’re hoping to break that this year,” Green said.

New wrinkles this year, according to Green, include going five-deep on awards in age groups.

Also, the event will start a cancer awareness initiative in honor of Hines Rotriga.

”September is Pediatric Cancer and Childhood Leukemia Awareness Month and we want to recognize that,” Green said.

Green added he’s always looking to improve on the event.

”We want to make it bigger and better every year,” he said. ”I never take anything for granted. I always think we can do something bigger and better.

”It’s, first and foremost about Debbie and how she treated people. People helped us out in our time of need and we want to help others out and treat people the way she was treated.

”We want to put on a good race.”