A little Saturday morning get-together with several hundred like-minded friends again hits the streets of Hernando this Saturday, Oct. 14, starting at 8 a.m.
That’s when the annual Water Tower 10K race event takes place and organizers are looking forward to the 14th edition of the 10-kilometer run.
The Water Tower 10K accomplishes a lot, according to race organizer and Hernando Community Development Director Gia Matheny, and Mayor Chip Johnson.
Primarily, the event is held to support the Hernando Excel By 5 Dolly Parton Imagination Library for children of Hernando residents. Through entry fees and sponsorships, including presenting sponsor Hollywood Casino and 1st Jackpot Casino, the program to offer books to children from birth to their fifth birthday to aid the early childhood education is in large measure funded by the race.
“The program is costing us more than $18,000 a year,” Matheny said. “That also helps us fund our books giveaway for young children. We also partner with both Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto and Methodist-Olive Branch Hospital to give them baby books, so that every child born from Hernando at those hospitals is given a baby book and a registration form to get them enrolled immediately.”
The Dolly Parton Imagination Library is a city-led initiative for all of the city residents’ children in Hernando to prepare them for kindergarten.
“We know that if they know how to read by the time they start school they will have a jump on the learning curve and prepare them for future success in school,” Matheny said.
There are almost 600 children in the Hernando program that are enrolled and getting age-appropriate books once a month, from birth until they are five years old. A total of 619 five-year-olds “graduated” from the program over the last year.
For the runners, the Water Tower 10K provides great views of Hernando and is run in the shadow of the historic water tower, built in 1925, and is a Mississippi landmark.
“We purposefully try to run them all over town and make sure they run through the historic neighborhood,” Johnson said. “We really just want them to see our beautiful town as they’re running.”
Matheny added many runners are attracted to do the Water Tower 10K as it becomes a “tuneup” for other fall running events, including the Memphis St. Jude Marathon.
“Some have said that we need to change the language in our event to the Hilly Hernando 10K Race, because the hills are closer to the end,” Matheny said. “It’s such a good race route to get you ready for St. Jude.”
The day doesn’t end for the runners once they cross the finish line, however, because that’s when the party begins, with door prizes and more, including lots of adult beverages for thirsty adult runners, courtesy of the Craft Beer Station of Hernando.
“They donate all of the beer for the event,” Matheny explained. “They are known in our city for having the most diverse craft beer supply in Hernando and North Mississippi.”
Two names are remembered at the Water Tower 10K. Scott Fernandez and Wendy Meyers both passed away in the same year. The runners are remembered as they were on the founding committee to start the event.
Johnson added the race attracts funding from the Mississippi Development Authority as a Visit Mississippi health tourism event. The Water Tower 10K was the first such event funded by the state agency.
“It’s a fun race, we have great support from the community, but everybody who participates has a really good time,” Matheny said.
To learn more and to register, visit the RunSignUp page for the Hernando Water Tower 10K.
The course for the race is shown below and is interactive here.