The Race: Southwest Atlanta event aims to uplift the community

A group photo following a race at Dean Rusk Park in West End.

Two thousand runners will pound the pavement through historically black neighborhoods in Southwest Atlanta like West End, Adair Park and Sylvan Hills at The Race, a half-marathon and 5K presented by The Unity Collective.

The Race is a weekend experience that kicks off with a health and wellness expo on Friday, Oct. 12, which is open to the public. Held at the Impact Event Center, the expo will feature locally black owned business vendor opportunities plus a speaker series and a fitness series. Saturday, Oct. 13 is the half-marathon/5K and the community celebration concludes on Sunday, Oct. 14 with a day of service.

“We are seeking to put on a grand scale event that highlights everything that is beautiful about running to this local community and everything that is beautiful and amazing about this local community to runners,” The Unity Collective co-Founder and The Race visionary, Da’Rel Patterson.

Understanding through personal experience how running can be transformative both physically and mentally, The Unity Collective wanted to show Southwest Atlanta what a world class running event looks like. And “knowing The Race is going to have a broad reach – we also want to expose runners to a part of town that they are not familiar with,” Patterson said.

Race volunteers Shanta McMillan, LaJuana Williams, Tes Sobomehin Marshall, and Marchell Bedford.

The Unity Collective is comprised of leaders in the black running groups, who Patterson had interviewed individually on his Real Runners of Atlanta podcast. Patterson asked these leaders to come together to share their stories about being runners of color and filling voids in the running community. It evolved from a panel discussion, to a monthly conversation and ultimately to The Race presented by The Unity Collective.

Last summer, The Unity Collective co-founder Tes Sobomehin Marshall, who already organizes seven runningnerds races annually, put together a plan and budget based on the group’s vision. Marshall said The Race would be a legacy event that everyone could be proud of and participate in each year.

“We put the event on Kickstarter to get major running groups and local businesses to back it in advance,” Marshall said, noting that he campaign of $60,000 was exceeded by Jan. 1.

Another critical part of the legacy of The Race is to make a real impact in the community. Each month, The Unity Collective hosts monthly runs on a portion of the course followed by a service project.

“You see an early preview of some portion of the course. And the community can see that we’re not just an in-and-out operation. We are all truly vested,” Patterson, who is also a resident of Southwest Atlanta, said.

At New Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Sylvan Hills, runners cleaned and reorganized its library that had fallen into disuse.

“We also wanted to work with local organizations that operated in or served the community we were running thru that would truly benefit from what we could contribute,” Patterson said.

Da’Rel Patterson and Tes Sobomehin Marshall

Five dollars from every race registration fee will be put into a Charitable Impact Fund distributed to three local charities: Carrie Steele-Pitts Home that provides community-based child welfare services, Leading Initiatives for the Less Fortunate Together (L.I.F.T), and the Westside Future Fund committed to revitalize and grow the area. In turn, these partners have registered to run or volunteer at The Race.

“Our goal is 1,500 to 2,000 runners and we are on track. We are already well over half of registrants but we miss an opportunity if we don’t support this race in mass numbers in Atlanta. We need everyone to come and support this event,” Marshall said.

The Race welcomes all races, creeds, paces and speeds.

“We want to show what Southwest Atlanta can do and to show Southwest Atlanta what running can do,” Patterson urged.

To register for The Race, visit theraceuc.com.

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