I guess it was first conceived about spring of 1983.  At least this was the way I heard it.  Jerry Jenkins and Joyce Gracy, both resident employees with not enough to do,  were jogging during lunch one day on Ďthe Bendí campus and they concocted the idea of Johnson Mental Health  starting a road race. It was kicked around a bit, Iím sure they had several lunch meetings around it,  and then it was decided upon.  It is probably one of the best things we do now and weíve been doing it for 20 years now.

            Last years race was on a very cold and drizzly early December Saturday morning.  It was not a miserable day, though.  About a hundred runners and walkers were milling around, talking the talk, and anticipating the start of the race.  After the race while the scores were being tallied, the atmosphere was jovial and loud with much talking, laughing and music.  They say itís a real sweet course if youíre a runner- mostly flat and wooded.  Nick Wilkinson and Jan Gautier were the overall male and  female winners.  As Jerry McAdams was calling out group winners, I was amazed at the camaraderie and enthusiasm. Itís electric and makes even we non-runners a part of the adrenaline flowing in the room.

            The planning and organizing are in full swing again for this year. A road race is not an easy event to throw together.  First off, you need some really dedicated athletes.  Bill Minehan and Melody Thompson with the Chattanooga Track club can really hook you up there.    Then you have details like getting road permits, police officers, sponsors, volunteers, T-shirts and mugs, water and snacks, publicity, and coordination with the race site contacts.  Oh, yeah, we need some money, too. 

            We havenít even talked about why we would undertake this great and overwhelming venture.  Christmas presents.  Lots of them.

            Since 1974, Joseph Johnson Mental Health has provided psychiatric and mental health services to the mentally ill population of the Chattanooga area.  Although a part of the Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System which serves twenty three counties in the state of Tennessee, our Chattanooga center alone serves an ongoing population of about two thousand clients.  In view of personal and economic costs, Schizophrenia has been characterized as one of the most devastating diseases afflicting mankind.  Itís a disease of the mind that robs the individual of emotional attachment, reality of their own identity and the identity of those they love, and a fulfilling and productive life.  These individuals are in our Chattanooga community. The more productive clients are working simple jobs in our businesses and living in their homes.  But the more debilitated clients are living in group home settings or in long term hospital settings.  Often, these individuals have little or no contact with their families due to their difficulty in maintaining personal relationships. 

            Each Christmas, the employees and friends of Johnson Mental Health provide Christmas for these severely mentally ill adults and children.  As this is often their only meaningful holiday activity, we try to make it a truly grand event.  This is where our road race proceeds go!  So you see where our enthusiasm stems from. 

            So, happy running!  What a way to qualify for the big ones and help your neighbors at the same time.       


                                                                                         Lynda Hale