Thousands of runners and walkers in Columbus and 200 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team Soldiers stationed in Iraq will be miles and time zones apart during August 28, but both will see each other via a live simulcast and have the same mission — to finish the Midnight Express 5K race.
The Midnight Express, hosted by Country’s Barbecue, is a three-day event which benefits the visually impaired in Columbus, and features many events including a car show, a poker run, music, beep ball and twilight golf. The event wraps up with the 5K at midnight Aug. 28, with the luminary-lit course looping around neighborhoods near Country’s Barbecue at 3137 Mercury Drive.
Runners will be able to see and interact with 3rd HBCT Soldiers in the simulcast, which will be projected on a JumboTron at the event. COL Peter Jones, 3rd HBCT commander, will send off Columbus runners and 3rd HBCT Soldiers in Iraq with a “on your mark, get set, go!” via simulcast. This will be the 3rd Brigade Soldiers’ third time competing in the race from Iraq.
SSG Natalie Hedrick, 3rd HBCT public affairs NCO, has worked at the race in Iraq twice before, but this year, she will run in it.
“I’m not much of a runner, but it’s so motivating to know that I will be crossing that finish line with around 2,000 other runners in Contingency Operating Site Kalsu and Columbus,” Hedrick said in an e-mail from Iraq.
Melissa House, a military spouse, will run in the Midnight Express 5K with her 15-year-old son, Todd. She said the Columbus community is always supportive when it comes to Soldiers and their families.
“The fact that someone thought to (have a simulcast with Soldiers in Iraq) shows how much Columbus supports deployed Soldiers and their families and I think that’s great,” she said.
Midnight Express is in its 30th year and is a staple event in Columbus, she said.
“It’s a huge community event and it’s a good time,” she said. “There are people who sit in their front yards cheering you on and there are lots of runners of every age. It’s definitely a family affair.”
In 2009, 2100 participants competed in the race, said Scott Ressmeyer, co-owner of Country’s Barbecue and event director. The event has progressively grown since it first began in 1980 with 200 runners.
And the money to benefit the visually impaired has increased too, he said. In 2009, competitors raised $50,000.
“This is more than a run,” Ressmeyer said. “It’s about making a difference in people’s lives, helping the visually impaired, and bringing the community together.”
If participants register by Aug. 26, the cost is $20. After Aug. 26, the price increases by $5. The cost includes a Midnight Express T-shirt, a barbecue sandwich, iced tea, popcorn, fruit and frozen treats. Preregistration packets can be picked up on the day of the event at 6 p.m. until race time. Pets are welcome. People can bring blankets, lawn chairs and coolers, but alcohol is prohibited.
For more information or to register, visit www.countrysbarbeque.com/midnight-express or call Ressmeyer at 706-366-4416.