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Race draws large turnout in salute to nation's veterans

November 11, 2007|By ERIN JULIUS

MARTINSBURG, W.Va.- A quick 5K race was no big deal Saturday morning for 82-year-old Bob Atkins of Winchester, Va.

The Navy veteran served during World War II and was in Nagasaki, Japan, more than 60 years ago when the second atomic bomb was dropped. Atkins said he really enjoyed Saturday's race, the proceeds of which benefit veterans at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg.

Most of those in Saturday's race weren't veterans themselves, but professed a great respect for those who have served.

Martinsburg High School cross-country teammates Shelby Johnson, 14, and Jen Emmert, 18, took first and second place, respectively, in the women's division of the race, running in their school's signature black-and-orange workout gear.

Both girls wanted a way to stay in shape after cross-country season, they said.

"It's a great cause since it's for the veterans," Emmert said.

Saturday's "Road to Freedom" 5K drew about 250 runners, joggers and walkers - the largest number ever to turn out for the event, organizer Don Stevens said.

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Pam Clemmer of Hagerstown, who started running recently, set a personal record Saturday during her first "Road to Freedom" run. She heard the race advertised as a flat race and made it her goal to run her personal best, she said.

Marie Gonzalez travels from Sterling, Va. to run the 5K every year, she said. Gonzalez served 10 years in the Army and runs to honor some of her friends who died overseas during their service, she said.

"I run it in their memory every year," she said.

Gonzalez crossed the finish line wearing red, white and blue sweats.

Ray Kitchen of Martinsburg runs the race every year, he said.

He runs in support of veterans, and admires their courage and what they do, Kitchen said.

"I thank them every chance I get," he said.

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