For Andrewses, race and preparations a family affair

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 5, 2004

Eight-year-old Sam and 6-year-old Sarah Ruth Andrews help prepare bags of goodies for participants in Saturday’s 25th Run Thru History.(Jon Giffin The Vicksburg Post)

[3/5/04]Call it a family tradition.

During the 25 years since it began, the Run Thru History has played a big role in the lives of the Andrews family.

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Ronnie, 53, and Sharon, 41, Andrews helped organize the 10K road race through the Vicksburg National Military Park and related events and have participated in it since its dawning days.

And since they arrived, their 6- and 8-year-old daughter and son have participated in nearly every aspect from stuffing tote bags for participants on Wednesday to taking down signs after the race.

“You just can’t stand on the sidelines and not get involved,” said Sharon Andrews, who will run in her 20th RTH Saturday morning. “You just can’t. It’s addictive to come out here and help from the start to the finish.”

After switching the after-school schedules of Sam and Sarah Ruth, the Andrewses started the prerace events this week with Wednesday’s bag-stuffing at Battlefield Inn for up to 1,000 participants. Everyone who signs up nearly 800 had signed up by this morning gets a bag with an official T-shirt and several other items.

Tonight, the Andrewses will have dinner with other participants and follow it up by lining the park with directional signs and mile-markers. At midmorning Saturday, when all the running and walking contests are over, they’ll take those same signs down to return the park to its normal state.

The day of the race, Sharon will run the 10K, and she’s expecting to be joined on the course by their older children, Lee, 25, and Blake, 21, who will drive in from out of town. They live in Jackson and Starkville, but they’ve also been lifelong RTH participants.

And the younger pair, Sam and Sarah Ruth, will take off in the 1-mile fun run. Each already has a shelf of trophies from the first Saturday of just about every March of their lives.

“We’ve all participated,” Sharon said. “It’s something we can do as a family.”

Ronnie Andrews will arrive at 5 Saturday morning to help set up food, water tables and other behind-the-scenes necessities. He’s already put in time over the past weeks buying food and drinks for the participants. His morning duties usually mean he doesn’t get to take part in the race itself not that he minds so much anymore.

“Back when I was in shape and I was running, my goal was always to beat 40 minutes,” he said. “I’m ashamed to say I’ve never beat 40 minutes, but I got close. Now I guess if I beat 60 minutes it would make me happy.”

He is an insurance executive, Sharon is a dental hygienist and Sam and Sarah Ruth are students at Vicksburg Catholic School.

The kids may have racing in their blood.

Sharon has run the RTH while pregnant with both Sam, in 1995, and Sarah Ruth, in 1997. She said when she was expecting Sam that if she didn’t get to do her daily exercise jog, he would begin kicking.

Each child began the Fun Run at age 3, and they look forward to it every year.

The family stays in shape before the race by going to the park four to five times a week. Often Ronnie and Sharon run while Sam and Sarah Ruth ride their bikes.

“I tell my kids you’ve got to live in that body the rest of your life. I’m trying to get them started young,” said Ronnie, adding he believes strongly in physical fitness.

The military park is a place where they feel safe and comfortable, he said.

“There’s just no better place in the world,” Ronnie said. “There’s no traffic. There are no dogs, there are no muggers. And we’ve got it year-round. People don’t appreciate what we do have as far as the park to go exercise.”

In last year’s race, Sharon placed ninth of the 26 competing in her age group with a time of 56:06. Sam who said he enjoys “running down the hills” best finished second in his age group in the 1-mile with a time of 8:48. Sarah Ruth placed fifth in the 5-and-under at 10:59.

But where they finish is not as important to the Andrewses as being involved.

“You get out of a community what you put into it,” Ronnie said. “This is one of the big volunteer events that we do as a family.”