Blue Shirts Dominate Tri-Fest 5K

Dozens of people donning blue shirts crossed the finish line in Downtown Henderson on April 23 – helping signal a return to normalcy.

After two years of pandemic-related-cancellations, Habitat for Humanity Tri-Fest 5K race officials opened registration about six weeks before the big day – signaling that the race was indeed on.

PTTG Chief Wellness Officer Dylan Phelps said it was exciting to return to the race after two years of cancellations. Five years ago, Pittsburg unofficially claimed it as “Our Race” because everyone looked forward to gathering in late April to demonstrate support for the community and represent the love and care the PTTG family has for each other.

No one was sure what to expect since the race hadn’t been held in three years. In 2019, the race drew about 350 participants – including 170 from PTTG. There were about 50 Pittsburg Tank and Tower Group family members who participated this year. While this year’s race didn’t draw as big a participant pool, it was blessed by beautiful weather and an engaged crowd.

“The day of the race could not have been scripted any better,” said Dylan. “The energy of the crowd was electric, the weather was absolutely perfect, and the outcome was phenomenal. It was a perfect return for this event.”

In years past, Pittsburg participants wore purple to honor the late Don Johnston. The royal color was his signature hue. This year, PTTG wore blue T-shirts in remembrance of Don’s son Donald “Johnny” Johnston. Blue was Johnny’s favorite color.

“It was amazing to see all of those ‘Johnny’s Squad’ shirts woven into the crowd on Saturday,” said Dylan. “Many participants from the community expressed their surprise at the fact that ‘all of those blue shirts’ were filled with PTTG family members.”

Training began in the late winter and continued through the spring. The FIT Wellness Program race crew created a 5K preparation program that can be utilized by all PTTG employees, family members, and friends. The program was accessible through the company’s web and app-based wellness portal. It was designed to slowly and properly build participants’ endurance and prepare them to enjoy race day no matter the pace they chose to pursue.

“Personally, I followed the 5K training program’s training regimen,” said Dylan. “That put me out on the road running two to three days per week.”

“In the past, the race crew offered differentiated preparation programs for walkers and runners,” said Dylan. “In fact, we may have gotten too technical with our training regimens. However, we’ve learned that safety, distance, and fun are the most important elements of helping our PTTG team prepare for events like this one.”

With the 2022 race, everyone followed the same training suggestions regardless of the pace. Each week, there were training exercises that correlated with specific distances.

“Each participant has their own intrinsic motivation to accomplish goals such as participating with a friend, crossing the finish line for the first time, setting a personal record, or even leading their division,” said Dylan. “Supporting those personal goals with encouragement and proper training guidance is important.”

He added that people are best motivated by something bigger than themselves and their own goals. This year, the PTTG family walked and ran for Johnny. He led the event each year – making it his mission to finish the race in 2017 and 2018 and cheer everyone on at the finish line in 2019.

“Johnny lived a life of inspiration,” Dylan said. “He always showed up and did his best for us, and this year we showed up and did our best for him.”

“It’s incredibly special to share this race with both our PTTG family and our own family members and friends,” Dylan said. “Our own family members and friends are an invaluable extension of our PTTG family, and that’s why all are invited. I love being a part of this event with so many people who are extremely important to me. Being surrounded by the PTTG family, running with one of my daughters, and meeting my family at the finish line makes this my favorite event of the year!”

Several PTTG employees brought their family members to participate in the race.

The race was Allstate Tower Shipping Manager Josh Gansman’s first-ever 5k since he’s usually busy with bass fishing tournaments on the weekend. Always on the lookout for activities to do with his 11-year-old son, Easton, Josh thought this was a great opportunity.

“Easton has muscular dystrophy, so he is in a wheelchair,” said Josh. “Honestly, seeing a picture of Ben pushing Johnny in a wheelchair on the registration email Dylan sent out gave me the idea that maybe, this would be something Easton would like to do.” “When I asked Easton about it, he was excited and said, ‘It sounds like fun. Let’s do it.’”

Easton’s six-year-old sister Emma wanted to join in too on the morning of the race, so she tagged along.

“It felt really good to finish the walk together with loved ones making memories,” Josh said.

Sage Implementation Leader Rick Crowder wanted to walk the race for many reasons, primarily among them to honor Johnny. He was joined in the race by his daughter Annie and mother Debbie.

“They both finished better than I did,” said Rick.

Though he’s participated in races before, he didn’t do anything in particular to prepare for this one. “In hindsight, that was foolish,” he said. “I have the blisters to prove it.”

“I fully expected to finish the race, but it was more difficult than I anticipated,” Rick said. “It seems I have gotten older and heavier, and such activities are not as easy as they maybe once were. It wasn’t so much about finishing the race, but just participating and enjoying the day’s festivities.”

Dylan said before the race that his goal was to have a wonderful time celebrating Johnny. Doing so would make this year’s return to the Tri-Fest 5k event a success for the PTTG family.

“The race has become very special to us over the years,” said Dylan. “Internally, we have been able to use it to honor and celebrate our loved ones, and it was such a joy to celebrate Johnny’s miraculous life this year in this way. Externally, it offers us the opportunity to demonstrate our values and culture to the community, and that leads to a unique widespread ripple effect. It fills my heart to see how many of our owners are committed to supporting and encouraging one another and to building up this wonderful company of ours.”

Dylan said he will always remember the moment when Johnny’s closest squad members – widow Kathy Johnston, son Joshua Johnston, daughter-in-law Brittany Johnston, and granddaughter Maggie Johnston – turned the corner for the finish line.

“It was extraordinary for all of us to see how they kept the faith and finished the race just like Johnny did!” Dylan said.

Events like this benefit the community, promote regular movement, motivate everyone to set and achieve goals, and teaches everyone about themselves.

“There are so many health-promoting aspects of training and participating,” Dylan said. “I encourage anyone interested to find a race that benefits a cause that is important to them and contribute through proper training and participation.”

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