With heavy hearts, Run for God returns at Albion church

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 March 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – The Albion Free Methodist Church kicked off its third spring Run for God program this afternoon, a 12-week program that concludes with the June 14 Strawberry Festival 5-kilometer race. The group started from the church at the corner of Platt and East State Street and went on the Erie Canal Towpath, covering about 2 miles, alternating between walking and running. Pictured, the runners include Jeff Joslyn, right, and his friend Greg Staines.

The group is selling T-shirts for $25 in honor of Wayne Burlison, who helped start the running program through the church. Burlison, an Albion elementary music teacher, is in the hospital battling colon cancer.

Matt Reamer, a Run for God veteran runner, is back training for another 5k with the group. Reamer ran a half marathon with some of the group members in the fall 2012.

ALBION – They trained for a marathon together and became good friends. Brian Krieger and Wayne Burlison wanted to share their sport and faith with the Albion community.

Two years ago they started a Run for God program, which over 12 weeks gets someone ready for a 5-kilometer race. Krieger and Burlison are both members of the Albion Free Methodist Church.

They weren’t sure how many people would participate in the program two years ago. Besides walking and running, the program includes devotionals, tips on avoiding injuries and stretching advice. The group also takes prayer requests. The program culminates at the Albion Strawberry Festival race the second Saturday in June.

That first year, about 40 people in the program ran the race. Krieger and Burlison finished the race and ran back to encourage other runners in the homestretch of the 3.1 mile journey.

Last year about 80 people joined the effort in Run for God, with participants ranging in age from 6 to 82. Burlison wasn’t quite feeling up for running during the 12 weeks, but he joined the group on the course, riding his bike and offering encouragement.

Burlison is now in the hospital, fighting colon cancer. He works as the elementary band teacher at Albion. He became a running promoter in the community after he lost more than 150 pounds in 2008 through exercise and better nutrition.

Today, the third Run for God kicked off and the participants were thinking of Burlison. This time Krieger has several people helping to run the program. One of Burlison’s friends, Bert Gallmon, had shirts designed that say, “Run for Wayne.” They are for sale for $25 and the proceeds go to the Burlison family. For more information on getting a shirt, contact Krieger by email at krieger44@verizon.net.

The church’s pastor, Randy LeBaron, also is running in the program this spring. He sees the camaraderie among the participants as one of the big draws. People can alternate running and walking at their own pace. Typically they form groups of similar-paced participants, and many get together for their two mid-week runs.

“This is a different kind of fellowship,” LeBaron said.

The church embraced the program in 2012 partly to support LeBaron, who had just lost his parents to illnesses. Eleven of the Run for God participants kept running after the Strawberry Festival race, and ran the Mighty Niagara half marathon in October 2012. LeBaron was one of the participants then.

“People want to live healthier and they enjoy the camaraderie,” he said.

LeBaron was thinking of Burlison often today, while about 30 people covered about 2 miles from the church to the Towpath and back. LeBaron was impressed with the turnout for the first day, given that it was only about 20 degrees out.

“This is something I can do to run with Wayne again,” LeBaron said.

The group meets at 2 p.m. every Sunday at the Free Methodist Church. Burris and Krieger welcomed everyone to come and try. They admitted it can be difficult at first, but it gets easier as the sessions go on and people build up their endurance.

Krieger shares a running tip and today he offered this quote from running guru George Sheehan: “Every one of us is an athlete. The only difference is that some of us are training and some are not.”