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The Journal Gazette

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Laura and husband Tommie Ankenbruck run with their two children, Tommie, 1, and Anna, 2, during the Associated Churches' Father's Day 5K race Saturday morning. About 400 people participated in the fourth annual event.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Participants stretch and wake up before the start of the Father’s Day 5K which started at Associated Churches-Fort Wayne on Wayne St. on Saturday June 16, 2018.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Participants take off during the Father’s Day 5K which started at Associated Churches-Fort Wayne on Wayne St. on Saturday June 16, 2018.  

Sunday, June 17, 2018 1:00 am

Ruckers make mark on 5K race

Carried 10 pounds of baby supplies for Associated Churches

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

Saturday, participating in Fort Wayne's fourth annual Father's Day 5K, were runners, walkers and ruckers.

And if the only rucker you've ever heard of is country singer Darius Rucker – well, you wouldn't have been alone, even at the event that benefits programs of Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County. 

The Rev. Roger Reece, Associated Churches' executive pastor, said people asked him what a rucker was as the event was being planned.

A rucksack, or “ruck” for short, is a backpack loaded with weights used in military training runs to simulate gear carried for combat, he said. 

Organizers learned of demand for such an option from members of the active-duty or reserve military families Associated Churches assists through a specialized ministry.

“They could use it for training,” Reece said of the race, which began at Associated Churches' headquarters, 602 E. Wayne St., and wound through Lakeside Park.

Race organizers asked those wanting to ruck to load their backpacks with 10 pounds of baby supplies to be donated to another of its ministries, A Baby's Closet.

That program provides baby items, from diapers and onesies to car seats and strollers, to expectant and new parents. The families earn coupons by completing activities that stress proper care for themselves and their babies – doctor visits, parenting classes or pursuing a high school diploma.

Reece said about 600 families were assisted last year. Unlike other years, he didn't run the race himself, but he said his grown son, Wes Reece, represented the family as one of the approximately half-dozen ruckers.

Cody Haviland, 46, and his wife Stacy, 44, weren't quite sure what they were getting into when they decided to ruck.

The Fort Wayne couple, along with their two children, Jacob, 12, and Molly, 10, were participating in their first Associated Churches' 5K.

They said they didn't know much about the agency before picking up a flyer at the Lehman YMCA.

“I was kind of intrigued by the idea of being able to donate and run too,” said Cody, a safety manager who runs as a hobby.

He and Stacy, a landscape architect for the city of Fort Wayne, loaded their backpacks with baby wipes, baby-friendly laundry detergent and a popular children's hydration product.

“Being parents, we know how much it takes,” Stacy said, adding the two were also using the run to train for an upcoming hiking trip on the famed John Muir Trail in the Sierra Mountains of California. 

As in past years, many people ran in honor of, or memory of, their fathers. Often they wrote their dad's name on their race number bib. 

Others participated with their father.

David Hernandez, 42, of Fort Wayne, a fitness club owner, said he was remembering his father as he ran. His dad, Jorge Hernandez, lives in Colombia. 

The younger Hernandez came in second, at around 19 minutes, despite pushing his own son, Gabriel, 5, in a stroller over the 3.1-mile course – which was mostly flat, but finished after a block-long uphill climb.

Hernandez estimated the weight he pushed at 55 pounds – much heavier than any rucksack.

“It hurts a lot, but it feels good,” he said after crossing the finish line dripping with sweat.

The race's winner was Noel Shafer, 50, of Peru, who covered the ground, ruck-less, in 18:49.

About 400 people, a record, signed up for the race, Reece said. He attributed the upswing both to the ruckers and to the race's being offered for the first time as a way to earn points for a Fort Wayne Running Club series.

And there also was the post-race pancake breakfast to attract runners and their families.  

It was not known Saturday how much the event brought in for Associated Churches, a nonprofit organization that also supplies food banks in neighborhood churches and develops partnerships between churches and nearby public schools.  

Brenda Kelly, 47, ran the event with her sister, Cindy Baker, 45, both of Akron in Fulton County, and Brenda's husband, Todd, 46, and daughters Reece, 11, and Rowan, 10.

Kelly said the family was participating in memory of their father and grandfather, Bob Baker, who died in April after battling Parkinson's disease.

“This is something we're going to do annually,” Kelly said, as the family sported T-shirts with slogans recalling their “Daddio” or “Pappy.”

Pushing her son Remington, 2, in a stroller, Kelly laughed when asked if she was a rucker. She was asked because she was wearing a big black backpack.

“No,” she said. “That's just my baby supplies.”  

rsalter@jg.net