More than 200 people attended the 13th annual Walk to Dorchester Academy earlier this month in honor of the post-Civil War struggle newly emancipated slaves endured in pursuit of education. Walkers, runners and bicyclists participated to commemorate the rich history in Liberty County while enjoying the exercise benefits of trekking the 9.2 miles between Riceboro and Dorchester Academy in Midway.
“Running this long distance is exciting, and I feel like I accomplished a big feat,” said Vanessa Kadalie, a runner who traveled from Ohio to attend the event with her husband who lives in Liberty County. Kadalie ran the 9.2 miles in 1 hour and 36 minutes and was the first female to cross the finish line at the Dorchester Academy.
“I probably was the oldest to cross, too,” she joked. At 60 years old, Kadalie runs 3 to 5 miles three times a week and said she runs like she did when she was in her 20s.
“I’ve always enjoyed running,” she said. “But then I had kids, gained a little weight and excising came second in the mommy phase.”
Kadalie is a nurse in Ohio and plans to retire to Liberty County this summer. After she retires, she wants to build awareness for health and wellness.
“I come from a family of seven with a history of diabetes,” she said. “So I realized that I really needed to get ahold of my health and start running again.”
Kadalie said that her husband, an avid runner and swimmer, inspired her to restart the habit.
“I don’t think I would be doing a 9.2-mile run like this if it weren’t for him,” she said. “I’ve lost weight, and I feel better altogether.”
Kadalie has participated in the Walk to Dorchester event for the past three years. The first year she walked, but she ran the route the past two years.
“I beat my time from last year,” she said. “I like to set goals for myself … that’s how I accomplish challenges.”
Just one month before the Walk to Dorchester, Kadalie ran a half marathon, which is 13.1 miles, in Columbus. She said she takes the distance one mile at a time and tries to be an inspiration to others, like her husband was to her.
“I like to come to this event or other running events like this to hopefully inspire others to keep exercising and to show people how important diet and exercise really is,” she said.
Many participants attended the Walk to Dorchester event with a physical challenge in mind. National Guard Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Washington brought his son and wife to the event to enjoy the run as a family.
“We like to get out and support local runs,” Washington said. “My son has taken to running like I did when I was younger, and we try to motivate his run passion.”
His son, Denicio Freeney, 13, started running five years ago and now runs about 4 miles every other day. Washington said his son was diagnosed with asthma when he was born, but hasn’t had any complications since he started running.
“He overcame it,” Washington said. “He told me when he was 8 that he wanted to run, so I told him to go out there and do his best.”
Denicio was the first one in his family to cross the finish line, in 1 hour, 26 minutes, at Dorchester Academy. His father followed him in shortly before Michele Freeney-Washington, his mother, crossed in about 1 hour, 50 minutes.
“We love running together,” Michele said.
The 9.2 miles from Riceboro to Dorchester Academy was the longest run she has participated in. She is training for the Walk Disney Marathon in January.
“I’ve lost a lot of weight,” she said. “I went from 214 pounds to 165 pounds … I really feel a sense of accomplishment.”
Freeney-Washington, who got out of the military in 2001, said she runs more now than she did when she served.
“Running is all about mental discipline,” she said. “I used to cheer for my husband and son from the sidelines, and now I can participate and compete with them … it is nice to be able to run as a family now.”