Reagan Run 5K is a family tradition

Dr. Joe Welty, his son Anthony, and Anthony’s children, Ryan, Danny, and Natalie, celebrate their finish at the 2022 Reagan Run in Dixon.

Editor’s note: The Reagan Run 5K will be July 6 in Dixon. Leading up to that event, we are publishing columns from the Reagan Run 5K Committee. Today’s column was written by Dr. Joe Welty.

Eighty-five Reagan Run 5K finishes.

This is the combined total of Reagan Run 5K finishes that our family, including sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren, has accumulated over the past 24 years since the inception of this event that has become a staple of the Petunia Festival weekend.

These have included everything from three first-place finishes by our son Anthony to mid-pack completions of the race while escorting grandchildren through their first attempts at the trip through downtown Dixon and the trails of Page Park. As the senior member of this group, it brings me endless joy to now see these same grandchildren speed off at a pace that I can no longer sustain.

What has remained consistent over these years is that the Reagan Run 5K is a family tradition. Weeks before the event, chatter in family conversations center around which family members are participating this year and about what time they hope to achieve. When time allows, joining in on the Wednesday evening Reagan Primaries through the month of June is added to pre-race training routines. There may even be a little bit of competitiveness that arises on occasion.

The day of the race has a consistent flow, beginning with meeting at the St. Patrick’s Church parking lot for a quick pre-race stretching session followed by a brisk walk to the starting area on Hennepin Avenue, where one can always find longtime friends and fellow returning participants, as well as those who have laced up their running shoes for their first go at getting to the finish line at Haymarket Square.

The start of the race always is preceded by the singing of the national anthem by one of our talented local vocalists, such as Patti Balayti and Gina Venier, and participants again are reminded of the celebration of our country with the display of a large American flag over the street as they pass by the Dixon City Fire Department.

Other traditions over the years have included guitarist Robby LeBlanc giving the runners and walkers a surge of adrenaline as they approach the completion of the first mile; encouraging words and smiles from the volunteers at the water aid stations; the ringing of a cowbell by our beloved Larry Reed (which will be sorely missed this year); the encouraging insults being hurled by a costumed Mike Lahey at the top of Page Park’s first hilly challenge; and, of course, the much-appreciated cheers of those who have come out to support their friends, neighbors and loved ones, especially in the cheer tunnel created by the crowds along the final two blocks before the finish.

A sweaty reunion awaits at the finish line with a welcome cold bottle of water, fresh fruit, pizza and ice cream to be enjoyed as a reward for the 3.1-mile effort. Pictures with family and friends to memorialize the morning’s run are an annual must as well. Announcement of overall and age-group winners and the winner of the Corporate Cup Challenge concludes the official race-day program.

A much-anticipated finale to the morning is a trek back across the Rock River for Pancakes in the Park (high school) for some post-exercise protein to rebuild tired muscles and carbohydrates to rebuild energy stores in anticipation of more Petunia Festival weekend events. Be sure to wear your Reagan Run T-shirt to the fireworks on Sunday evening as a badge of honor for your accomplishment.

This year, start your own family tradition.

Grab a family member or two and come on out to join us for this day of positive energy and fun. As I write this article, our family is celebrating the arrival of a new granddaughter. While she does not yet know it, this aging runner looks forward to coaching her down Hennepin Avenue, over the Rock River, through Page Park and back over the river to the finish line on Highland Avenue on a first Saturday in July in a year to come. The Welty family looks forward to seeing more of you out there this July 6.


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