Weehawken Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Zywicki participated in the 31st annual Lincoln Tunnel 5K Challenge last Saturday. The challenge raises funds for the Special Olympics New Jersey, in which athletes with disabilities compete in various categories.
Students from Weehawken High School and Mayor Richard Turner joined him, helping to raise over $2,000 for the games this year. Around 2,600 runners took part. Participants ran and walked through the tunnel to Midtown Manhattan before turning around and running back to the finish line in New Jersey. According to Maria Fisher, chairperson of the Special Olympics, the event raised over $125,000. AmeriHealth New Jersey sponsored the event.
“I like to run and I used to run 5K's pretty regularly, until September, when I had a stress fracture,” Zywicki said, of participating in the race. This was his first one since recovering from his injury.
“It's a great thing for the entire town,” he said.
The superintendent also launched a fundraiser to help sponsor the Olympics. As of the morning of the race, it had raised $130 of its original $100 goal.
“It's a great cause, and this is a beautiful day,” said Turner, who walks in the event each year. He headed with Zywicki and the students to the starting line. “They raise a lot of money for New Jersey Special Olympics, and you can't get any better than that.”
“It's fun, like a bonding experience,” added Weehawken High School student Gabby, 13, about why she was participating in the event, also as a walker.
Fast feet, no shoes
There were several other notable aspects to the event. For one, runner Henry Alvarado, a native of Peru, ran the race barefoot. He finished the 3.1 mile route in less than 25 minutes.
“It's natural,” said Alvarado, 44, who came in second place, beating out thousands of other runners.
“Nutrition is No. 1, mindset is No. 2, and the third one is the discipline.” --Jefferson Gonzalez
“I feel great,” said Jefferson Gonzalez, 33, the first place runner, with a time of 20:31. He motioned to Alvarado and said, “This guy that was right next to me, barefoot, inspired me to go a little further than I was going.”
Gonzalez, a wellness coach who is training for an Ironman triathlon in Atlantic City, added that “Nutrition is No. 1, mindset is No. 2, and the third one is the discipline.”
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