Whether it’s pink, yellow, blue or patriotic hues, Ria Newcomb has a handmade tutu in just about every color.
She enjoys matching the fluffy tulle skirts with goofy sunglasses, shimmering bead necklaces, crazy knee socks and other accessories. These vibrant ensembles join a collection of T-shirts in corresponding colors and displaying event names such as “Color Pop,” “9/11 Freedom Run” and “Happy Feet for Healthy Minds.”
Each outfit reminds Newcomb she successfully attained a personal goal in 2017: to participate in 12 5K run/walks. They beckon memories of eating pizza at the finish line, getting blasted with a multitude of colors while walking along the route or commemorating her father-in-law who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. They reflect the push that each event gave Newcomb and her friends to exercise and cross the finish line. Most importantly, they resemble the unity of people, rallying to raise funds and create awareness for an important local, regional or national cause.
“I have gained a sense of community. It is awesome to see people come together and seeing the people putting these events on and their passion for it,” said Newcomb. “There was a time this summer that it did motivate me to start walking more on my own. I saw how the more I did it, the easier it was to do. It was helpful in getting me up and wanting to move.”
The First Step
Before she set her 2017 goal, Newcomb was not a stranger to 5K run/walks. The Camdenton High School graduate and her friends had participated in a handful of events, including the Children’s Learning Center annual Night GLOW 5K Run/Walk in her hometown, a run/walk to support the Camdenton VFW Post 5923 and the Crush Pancreatic Cancer 5K Fun Run/Walk and Chili Cook-off in Linn Creek, which personally touches Newcomb and her family.
Newcomb’s husband Andy lost his father Floyd Sanders, a Camdenton police officer, to pancreatic cancer. In 2010, their family, along with the Camdenton Police Department, started the event at the Linn Creek City Park to raise money for the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, and the Camdenton Police Department also sponsors the event.
“This year we had one of our bigger turnouts. You would think because the word is getting out more people are more aware of the event, but unfortunately it is more of the opposite where more people or their loved ones are being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We have several families that are moved to the cause because of that,” Newcomb said.
Newcomb and her friend Debra Brothers, a fellow Camdenton High School graduate and a registered nurse in Jefferson City, were moved to participate in other 5Ks and both decided to participate in 12 5K walk/runs in 2017.
“I’m not an avid runner and I don’t actively exercise. I will take all the motivation I can get to get out and exercise,” she said. “We both thought it would be fun and hopefully encourages us to exercise more.”
Walking the distance
Making the choice on what 5K walk/runs to participate in started with available dates the pair had. The first one held Feb. 25 at Stephen’s Lake Park in Columbia also had quite an interesting title, the Toilet Trot. A group of Columbia students decided to spend their spring break making a difference in El Salvador, building sanitary composting latrines for impoverished families in that country. Money raised from the event, which concluded with s’mores and a bonfire, went toward the students’ efforts.
After the Toilet Trot, Brothers and Newcomb participated in several 5K runs together including dressing up as Sesame Street’s the Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch at the Shakespeare’s Pizza Fun Run benefit for The Rainbow House April 1 at Stephen’s Lake Park in Columbia, the Jefferson City Key Club’s Paint the People 5K Run/Walk April 15 at Binder Ball Park, the Community Color Pop April 22 in Hartville, Missouri, and the Lake Regional Health System’s annual Fun Run and Walk May 6 in Osage Beach, at which the pair placed third in the best dressed category for their matching red tutus, heart shaped red sunglasses and decorative accessories.
“The very first one we did a few years ago for the VFW at Camdenton Schools, there was a competition for the best dressed. We made an entire outfit. From that point on, I have made matching tutus for every run,” she said. “My husband jokingly asks why I have to wear the tutus. He just thinks we are silly. He also knows that it is something we put our minds to and want to do, so he is very supportive. He is a tournament fisherman, so he has that and I do this … We support each other in those things.”
Often Brothers’ 2-year-old daughter Kaylin accompanied the friends on their 5K quest, taking in the experience while riding in her stroller.
“Having Debra’s little girl with us made for some fun, interesting walks, especially the Paint the People 5K in Jefferson City. She kept asking what the next color was going to be. That was a fun game within itself,” Newcomb said.
Brothers also joined Newcomb at Happy Feet for Healthy Minds 5K Run/Walk May 16 in Jefferson City which is sponsored by Pathways. That company sponsors the event and runs Cedar Ridge Treatment Center at Lake of the Ozarks where Newcomb, a licensed professional counselor, has been the program director for about five years. Newcomb also participated at another event Pathways sponsored, Run for Their Lives held June 3 in Lebanon.
A pregnant Brothers walked in most of these runs but took off for a few months after having her son. Newcomb continued her goal, finding additional 5K run/walk buddies in friends Jessica Cox and Sarah Lempea, among a few others. She participated in the annual Lake of the Ozarks Run for the Fallen Aug. 12 in Camdenton, The Life Network’s Walk for Life Oct. 28 at Stephen’s Lake Park, the fourth annual 9/11 Freedom Run Sept. 9 in Lake Ozark and her family’s sponsored Crush Pancreatic Cancer 5K Run/Walk Oct. 14, in which Brothers supported bringing her whole family, including her new little bundle of joy. Newcomb finished out the year at the Running of the Elves in downtown Camdenton.
Running into the horizon
Newcomb walked most of the events, however, during the last few this fall she has tried to push herself.
“Sarah has really gotten into exercising and running, so she helps push me and encourages me to run. I did during a few. I typically walk, and it is good exercise and it is all for a good cause. … Technically I have done nine 5Ks,” she said with a laugh. “There have been a couple of other events that had smaller walks that were part of it or a 5K.”
However, she did meet her goal by participating in 12 events, and after the holidays she and her friends hope to map out dates of upcoming 5Ks of interest for this year.
“We enjoy the color runs, so I think we will find some more of them. We just really enjoy doing them together. Debra and I starting this goal and getting the other girls involved … it has been great for people to join in,” she said.
For Newcomb, wearing the tutus has brought excitement and creativity to the event, and choosing certain run/walks has truly moved her with the causes they support. She is proud to wear her event T-shirts from the last year, hoping to spread the cause and motivate others to support it or join in next year. To borrow from Nike, Newcomb advises those wanting to walk or run in a 5K to “just do it.”
“No matter if you walk or jog or run, that is the biggest piece: just doing it. It would start getting tough at different times or we would get down on ourselves for being last, but having that encouragement and someone bringing it back to the positive is truly motivating,” she said. “Having friends to help encourage and push me has helped me exercise and walk more. … No matter how much you do or don’t exercise, getting out and doing it is something. We give ourselves those pep talks all the time, and we are doing it.”