Run Thru History part of Walski family tradition|[3/3/05]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 3, 2005

The Run Thru History is in Kristi Walski’s blood.

Her father, Tom, was one of the race’s organizers in its early years. Kristi’s first race was the Blue-Gray 1-miler when she was 6 years old. Last year, she returned to Vicksburg as a 25-year-old woman and ran the 10K portion of the race for the first time and finished third.

This year, with a little luck, she just might win her first cannon as a Run Thru History champion.

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“It’d be the most important running moment of my life, but you never know what’s going to happen,” Walski said of winning the RTH. “I’m hoping to improve by a good bit, but you never know who’s going to show up or how you’ll feel that day.”

The Walski family’s ties with the RTH run deep.

Tom Walski was, and still is, an avid runner who often carted his children to different runs on the weekend. While some classmates played baseball or basketball, Kristi Walski remembers running.

“We always had posters up on the wall and always participated in it. It’s what we do,” she said with a laugh. “We don’t do any other sports. The Walskis only run.”

Tom Walski also found time to get involved with another element of the races. When a group of Vicksburg businessmen put together the first Run Thru History in 1980, he was on the organizing committee.

Tom Walski handled publicity for the RTH until 1987, when he left Vicksburg to take a job in Pennsylvania.

“There had been other events in Vicksburg on a smaller scale, and Warner Byrum came in and said let’s do something big,” Tom Walski said. “I helped with the publicity, put some articles in the paper, that sort of thing.”

Kristi Walski ran in the Blue-Gray 1-miler, a shorter version of the RTH for children, in 1985. She didn’t get a chance to run the full distance before the family moved, but was destined to get another chance.

After going to college at Virginia Tech and Colorado State, Kristi got a job offer from the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. She returned to Vicksburg in 2003 as a biochemist at Waterways Experiment Station.

“It wasn’t planned, it wasn’t something I intended. I just needed a place to work,” said Kristi, who now works as a biologist for the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

Not long after coming home, Walski started to run competitively. She had run to stay in shape through her college years, but the 2004 Run Thru History was her first 10K.

She looked like an old pro, finishing third in the women’s division with a time of 44:43.

“When I finished third, I was so excited,” Walski said. “That was a shock, because it was the first 10K I had run since moving back to Vicksburg and starting to train for real.”

Over the last year, Kristi has started to follow in her father’s running footsteps.

She trains in the Vicksburg Military Park with her dog, Arrow, and has competed in a number of Mississippi Track Club events. She said moving to Vicksburg played a big part in rededicating herself to the sport, as did the dog.

Arrow, an Australian Cattle Dog, follows Walski on all her training runs, whether the distance is one mile or 17.

“He helps me immensely,” Walski said with a laugh. “He’s an awful dog to be around without exercise. This breed has to have a job, and his job is to play frisbee and run.”