Valdosta Daily Times

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July 5, 2014

Let Freedom Run

Ninth annual Valdosta 5K celebrates Independence Day

VALDOSTA — Fireworks and family barbecues have become the common way for Americans to celebrate the day the United States separated from England, but over the past nine years citizens of Valdosta have developed another Independence Day tradition: the annual Valdosta 5K.

"Well, this is Valdosta, Ga., home of Moody Air Force Base and I feel very strongly that this community embraces our veterans," said race coordinator Todd Smoot.

Smoot began overseeing the Valdosta 5K as a way to give back to Lowndes County's veterans, a mission that has been a smashing success.

"I come from a city, Atlanta, that has a rather large road race on Independence Day and I liked how that was conceived and has been running. I wanted to do something here and the logical beneficiary of the event would be the veterans of Lowndes County," said Smoot. "In 2006 we started the event with the Baytree for a couple of years and we've just progressed and now it's starting and finishing at the American Legion which really makes sense. We've been able to give over $18,500 to the veterans over that period of time and we'll be giving more (Friday).

"Prior to that the veterans, I don't believe, had a bank account to help Lowndes County veterans."

On Friday, the Valdosta 5K had a new course from previous years.

Runners gathered in front of the American Legion Post 13 on Williams Street at 7:30 a.m. to begin the 5K. The course cut across Patterson twice as it circled back to the finish line outside the American Legion.

Lowndes cross country runner Chance Roe finished first overall with a time of 17:35, just edging out Dylan Rodgers by .03 seconds.

All the proceeds from the Valdosta 5K go to the Lowndes Veteran Council, but Smoot also wants to push the community to remember the importance of the day.

"I like how our community supports the (Valdosta 5K), and I really want to make certain that we understand that this is not July 4th, it's Independence Day," said Smoot. "I don't call it July 4th, we must remember this is our Independence Day and what that means."

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