The last-place finishers of the Cowtown 5K

March 11, 2016

Judah at the Cowtown 5kBy Alex Branch

This is the story of how the last-place finishers of the Cook Children’s 5K at Cowtown Marathon were actually the day’s biggest winners.

Tekeshia Herring‘s 9-year-old son Judah was born with a condition that made his left arm shorter than his right one. He struggles to raise his arm above his head, jump rope or tie his shoe. His feet don’t arch normally, and he easily loses balance.

While his classmates run and play at school recess, Judah often watches and comes home saying he wishes he could do all the same things as other children. His limited mobility makes it a daily struggle to stay healthy.

She wanted him to learn not to get discouraged so easily. So when Judah came home from David K. Sellars Elementary School and announced that his student council was signing up for the Cowtown Marathon, she and Judah decided to walk the 5K race together. UNT Health Science Center founded the race in 1979 and is now a sponsor, providing medical care and volunteers.

Driving to the 9:30 a.m. race, Judah wanted to back out.

“Mama, we don’t really have to do this,” he told her.

“Yes, baby, we are doing it,” she answered emphatically.

At Will Rogers Memorial Center, they got confused. They didn’t realize they needed race bibs. Then they couldn’t find the booth to get them. The 5K started, and Tekeshia and Judah were still trying to figure out where to go.

At 10:52 a.m., one hour and 22 minutes after the race started, Tekeshia and Judah arrived at the start line. Other runners were already finishing.

Off they went, along the otherwise empty race route. They walked down Clarke Avenue and onto Hillcrest Street, past the leafy River Crest Country Club. Their legs hurt. A hill just about did them in. They stopped and rested against a tree.

They walked on.

Orange cones that marked the route began to come down. Everyone else was finished. Police officers pointed them in the right direction. Other runners, walking to their cars, stopped to encourage them.

“You can do it,” they shouted.

At 12:15 p.m., Tekeshia and Judah staggered to the finish line. It was mostly empty, the excitement and pageantry over. Jennifer Nanni, UNTHSC alumni relations coordinator, was packing things up when she saw the exhausted mother and son.

Nanni hurried to interrupt a meeting between race officials to retrieve two 5K finishers medals. She tracked down some bananas and cashews and other snacks the runners who finished earlier enjoyed. Nanni made a big deal of presenting Judah his medal, which he would wear for days, even to church on Sunday and then to school on Monday.

Drained and sweaty, Tekeshia and Judah were ready to go home and rest. Mother and son looked at each other.

“Baby,” Tekeshia said. “We did it.”

Tekeshia and Judah at the finish line
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