Runners, volunteers cheer on one another in benefit race

From News ReleaseNovember 29, 2013 

When Lori Giggey Dishman woke up to gray skies and a steady drizzle, she was tempted to bag the road race for which she and co-workers had registered to run. But then she thought: How often do adults get to play in the rain?

And so they did.

All five of them, including the one man in the group, stuck to their plan. They slipped into leotards, black T-shirts and colored tutus. Three of them pinned tiaras in their hair. They called themselves the Divas of the Emergency Department.

They were among the 59 participants in the second annual Johnston Health Champions 5K, a fundraiser of the Johnston Health Foundation. The 3.1-mile-long course began and ended on the front lawn of Johnston Medical Center in Smithfield.

Throughout the race, Dishman, who is an Emergency Department charge nurse, was turning to her teammates and fellow nurses, Ashley Banks and Edie Braswell, to see how bad their mascara was running. (Yes, they all wore makeup.)

“At one point, there was so much water hitting my face I could barely see,” Dishman said. “Our clothes became heavy. Still, we had fun.”

The two serious runners in the group, Jonathan Wuntke, a nursing assistant, and Braswell’s 12-year-old sister, Wendy, sped down the course. She would later place third among the women; Wuntke would finish eighth among the men.

The runners were all ages. A few dads ran with their preschoolers in strollers. An 83-year-old was pushed in her wheelchair by two daughters.

Rodney Gilmore, 50, ran with his friend, Dr. Rusty Anderson, 54, an oncologist on the medical staff of Johnston Health. They would finish the race first (19:55) and third (20:37), respectively. Jesus Rodriguez, 14, a student at West Johnston High School, finished second.

Spencer Hubbard, 24, an employee of the State Employees’ Credit Union, had gastric bypass six months ago and has since lost 105 pounds. The race was his first.

“I’m ready for another one,” he said afterward.

Emily Bass, marketing coordinator for Johnston Health, helped put on the road race last year. This year, she decided to compete and placed first among the women (23:33) and sixth overall. Her boyfriend, Joe Kessler, placed fourth.

Midway on the course, the Princeton High School band played underneath a tent. The upbeat tunes helped lift spirits, Bass said.

Employees at Four Oaks Bank, a race sponsor, stood under umbrellas to hand out water. Most runners, however, caught enough rainwater to stay hydrated.

Alison Drain, executive director of the foundation, said 5Ks go on in spite of the weather.

“People who are sports enthusiasts just roll with it,” she said. “For them, rain is not a big deal.”

But what about the other folks who walked or ran just for fun?

“It’s inspiring to run a race with a group,” Drain said. “Once you’ve had that experience, you want to keep doing it.”

Dishman agreed. “It’s a great cause, and it’s a good way to show our support of the workplace we love,” she said.

It’s also good exercise. A year ago, Wuntke could barely run a mile. Now he’s running marathons, Dishman said.

“He’s such a good sport, and he’s so supportive of us,” she said.

Even if it means having to wear an orange tutu.

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