After waking up May 14 to find that a bear had attempted to break into his garage overnight, the 5-kilometer Run for the Young was one of the last things on Joaquin Aymerich’s mind. Nevertheless, he got ready for the road race and traveled from his Naples home to St. Lawrence Parish in Greece, where the race was to be held.
Aymerich’s spirits lifted when he arrived at the parish and met Father Mickey McGrath, parochial vicar for Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community. Aymerich belongs to St. Januarius Parish in Naples, one of the community’s six parishes. A 35-year veteran of various other running events, Aymerich decided to compete in Run for the Young for the first time after learning that Father McGrath would also be participating.
The annual Run for the Young, which began in 1998, is a diocesan-sponsored 5K (3.1 mile) road race that raises money for the diocesan Youth Scholarship Fund. Money from the fund is used to help youths attend conferences, retreats and leadership-training programs at the diocesan and national levels. The event also includes a 1-mile fun run.
More than 450 people participated in this year’s 5K and fun runs, and almost $12,000 was raised for the Youth Scholarship Fund, said Michael Theisen, diocesan director of youth ministry. Aymerich and Father McGrath joined two other St. Januarius parishioners and 13 others from Finger Lakes-area parishes, he added.
Besides St. Januarius, the other Finger Lakes parishes represented at the Run for the Young were St. Dominic’s Parish in Shortsville, St. Mary’s Parish in Canandaigua, St. Mary of the Lake Parish in Ontario and St. Michael’s Parish in Newark. Altogether, runners from these parishes raised $1,178 for the scholarship fund, Theisen said. Father McGrath said he raised at least $220 through pledges for the run.
Father McGrath’s training for the race marked the first time he’d run regularly since he’d been on the wrestling team in high school.
“I just needed a little more energy in my life, and I was looking for an excuse,” he said, explaining why he’d entered the race. “It’s kind of fun just to challenge yourself.”
He’d originally thought most of the other runners would be youth-group members from diocesan parishes. While many teens did take part, a lot of the participants were veteran runners like Aymerich.
“Those people meant business,” Father McGrath recalled with a laugh. “The winning time was under 15 minutes.”
Father McGrath began training for the race in late March by running for about 15 or 20 minutes several times a week. By May, he’d built up to 30-minute runs, and although he hadn’t measured the distance he traveled each time, he was fairly confident in his abilities.
“I just figured I could do it in less than 30 minutes,” he said.
Father McGrath completed the run in 26 minutes, 37 seconds — a time he said he was pleased with. Twenty-six minutes and change seems to be a popular time for priests, he said, noting that Father Steve Lape — parochial vicar at St. Mary’s Parish in Auburn — completed last year’s race in 26 minutes, 28 seconds.
Aymerich first began running in high school, where he competed on the track and cross-country teams. He continued running in college and afterwards, participating in 5K runs in his community. After neglecting his running for several years, Aymerich decided in December to again get serious about his training. He currently runs 35 miles each week, and he hopes to eventually build up to running 70 miles each week and compete in the Rochester Marathon.
He completed Run for the Young in 22 minutes and 21 seconds — his personal best time for this running season. Although he was happy with his time, his favorite part of the run was watching Father McGrath in his first race.
“I watched Father Mickey push to the finish line, clearly putting out his best effort. He then looked up and greeted me with a smile of satisfaction. At that moment my own running became rejuvenated,” Aymerich said. “It was really fun, and personally I got so much out of seeing Father Mickey participate in his first race ever. I just thought it was tremendous what a great effort he put out. I think the whole Naples community is getting a kick out of it.”
The event was very well-organized and enjoyable, and the large number of participants was a pleasant surprise, Aymerich and Father McGrath said.
“Clearly God was present on a good day with good friends, and it all benefitted the youth of our diocese,” Aymerich said.