Some ran it competitively. Some walked at brisk speeds that turned into jogs throughout the 5K. Others held their children’s hands and just walked it for fun.



Regardless of their strategy, about 700 people ranging from age 4 to their early 80s participated in the inaugural Independence Park Trot this weekend at Waterfall Park near Bass Pro Shops.

A father asked his son at the starting line Saturday morning what his goal was for the 3.1-mile course.

“To win,” replied the young boy, not older than 5 years old.

Some ran it competitively. Some walked at brisk speeds that turned into jogs throughout the 5K. Others held their children’s hands and just walked it for fun.

Regardless of their strategy, about 700 people ranging from age 4 to their early 80s participated in the inaugural Independence Park Trot this weekend at Waterfall Park near Bass Pro Shops.

The event was part of the Building a Healthier Independence initiative in which the city received grant funding for ongoing efforts in increasing physical activity, making healthier food choices and decreasing tobacco usage. Although the Park Trot was free, participants were encouraged to bring canned goods for the Hungry and Homeless Coalition and for an opportunity to win raffle prizes. About 500 pounds of food were collected.

Alicia Nelson, an Independence Health Department program officer who oversees the physical activities portion of Building a Healthier Independence, said the city was unsure of what to expect when the Park Trot was in the planning stages in February.

Then, online registration opened up, and the registrations flooded in.

“All of a sudden, we had close to 1,000 registrations, so we had to close the event early,” Nelson said. “We didn’t really know how the event would go until the registration opened.”

One of the prominent features of the event were signs placed throughout the trail with tips on healthy eating, exercise and how to quit smoking. The idea, Nelson said, stems from a race she ran while attending Brigham Young University in which runners pinned quotes about ending violence against women on their backs. As a result, she said, she learned interesting facts while running.

“We kind of applied that idea to the Independence Parks Trot,” Nelson said. “We had those signs made and specifically placed along the event so that families had the opportunity to learn some facts while participating in a healthy activity.”

Kansas City resident Jeremy Garrett, 35, won the race with a time of 16 minutes, 58 seconds. The top female runner was 19-year-old Ellisha Asher of Odessa, who finished 19th overall in a time of 23 minutes, 16 seconds.

But in some peoples’ eyes, the person who came in last was actually the real winner – 48-year-old Army veteran and Independence native Rene Peterson. Peterson completed the event in a hand-controlled wheelchair.

At-Large Council Member Jim Schultz shook Peterson’s hand and placed a medal around his neck as Peterson crossed the finish line.

“It was worth it for me to stick around and see the smile on his face,” Schultz said. “He was so proud, and that was really cool. It was my pleasure to do that.”

The strong level of interest, coupled with Peterson’s participation, were a couple of surprises for race organizers.

“It was a really neat thing to see that he did the entire course by hand,” Nelson said. “We weren’t expecting that all – it didn’t cross my mind at all that someone in a wheelchair would participate.”

Building a Healthier Independence is now in its second year, and in several weeks, Health Department staff will meet to evaluate the Park Trot and the likelihood of it returning for a second time.

“Everyone really wants to do this again next year,” Nelson said. “It was definitely a successful event, and we would like to continue it in the future.”