Run for Rwanda 5K has impact across the globe

By: brent w. new
August 2, 2014 Updated: August 3, 2014 at 2:57 pm
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The start or the Run for Rwanda 5K, which was held Saturday at Cottonwood Creek Park. Image from a video by Brent New.

Of course, even the biggest and most successful Run for Rwanda 5K to date certainly wasn't going replace the loss race director Kevin Werner feels every day. Nor will it bring back the mother of his 6- and 4-year-old daughters lost last spring.

But that was never what he intended this race to be. It couldn't be. This was instead, at least in part, about honoring the memory of Heather Werner, his late-wife, and the co-director of the race, who lost her four-year battle to cancer last May.

"This is a tribute to her and hopefully it honors her," said Kevin, who also made sure to stress that the run was meant to pay tribute to the millions of lives taken 20 years ago in the mass genocide in Rwanda.

Saturday - at 8:22 a.m. in Colorado Springs and 4:22 p.m. in Kibali - a combined 750 runners crowded the start lines and took off simultaneously in a run that raised more than $25,000.

The amount toppled the proceeds from any of the six races that came before, and even clipped last year's total, the previous high mark and the first year Kevin and Heather were the race's directors, by $9,000.

In the seventh running Missouri-transplant Ryan Meyer, 23, who decided to run only hours before the race due to the fact that it was less than a block from his apartment, led throughout at Cottonwood Creek Park and broke the race-record by 29 seconds with a winning time of 15 minutes, 51 seconds.

Four minutes later, Claire Rachwitz, 19, a graduate of Rampart High School, won the women's race in 19:57. And in between, time-wise at least, Ruvubi Jean Buptiste won the Kibali race in 17:10.

Runners from both parts of the world were able to see and hear what was happening 8,500 miles away through a live webcast.

"I didn't know a lot about (the race), but I'm really glad I was a part of it," said Meyer, who recently moved to the Springs. "No matter how I ran, this was great to be a part of."

About $125,000 has been raised in the run's seven years. Werner says the proceeds will go the continued construction and advancement of a Kibali healthcare clinic as well as scholarships for Rwandan children hoping to go to high school in a country that does not offer free public education to all.

"Heather was so in touch with the people in Rwanda despite never getting the chance to go there herself," Werner said. "When they (people in Kibali) heard about her battle with cancer they prayed for her. It was amazing, especially since they'd never met her before."

Heather battled colon cancer for the better part of four years before she died May 29, two days before her 36th birthday.

Kevin says she was able to spend much of those four years outside a hospital bed as she spent her life helping and enjoying her family and friends.

Kevin was able to smile about that fact on Saturday.

"She never did stop living life," he said.

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