Fuzz Run around the corner

COVINGTON - Put on those tennis shoes and start running. If you haven't already, it's time to begin training for the 25th Annual Covington Police Fuzz Run, scheduled for Sept. 13.

That may seem like a long time away, but as the Covington Police Department's Web site reminds everyone, it's just 42 days 'til race day.

Registration is now under way for runners, and the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce is already seeking participants for the Fuzz Run Business Expo.

The success of the race, which last year drew 2,600 runners, is a lesson in how community partnerships can work.

The event started 25 years ago with about 200 participants, but by year 11, participation had dwindled to about 47 and the Police Department was considering canceling the race, according to Fuzz Run Director Capt. Ken Malcom.

That's when the event came under the purview of the department's Community Outreach Unit. By partnering with businesses, organizations and schools within the community, the unit was able to quickly get the race back on track, and the event continues to grow by word of mouth, Malcom said. It was named "Best Race in Georgia" by Runner Magazine in 2002, 2003 and 2004.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Police Who Care fund, which assists public safety officers and their families who are facing extreme hardships. Over the years, the fund has also branched out and now assists local nonprofits such as Special Olympics and the Empty Stocking Fund.

"It's been a great fundraiser for the Police Who Care organization, a great opportunity to interact with the community in a non-emergency setting, something that's very rare for a local police department to be able to do," Malcom said. "We hope to see another 25 years of success with it."

The last two races have each raised $25,000, he said.

"We give so much of it back to the community. One of the rewarding parts of this is that we've helped so many organizations and different people over the years," he said.

The Fuzz Run will kick off at 8 a.m. Sept. 13 with a 1-mile Fun Run/Walk, followed by a 5K run at 8:30 a.m.

The route begins at Conyers Street Gym and heads through downtown Covington.

Awards will go to the top three runners in each age group and cash awards are available in some categories. The organization with the most participants will also take home a trophy.

Registration is $14 and must be postmarked by Sept. 5. Race day registration is $18. Family four-packs are available for $45.

To download a registration form, visit www.covingtonpolice.com and click on the Fuzz Run link. Mail early registration forms to Police Who Care; Covington Police Department Fuzz Run; 1143 Oak Street; Covington, GA 30014.

For more information, call 770-385-2145 or e-mail fuzzrun@cityofcovington.com.

The Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce is also gearing up for the run by seeking participants for the 2008 Fuzz Run Business Expo.

The expo will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 12 inside Conyers Street Gym, where racers will come to pick up their packets and register. The race will move outside to Baker Field from 7 a.m. to race end Saturday.

Registration is $90 for Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce members and $105 for non-members for either day or $140 for Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce members and $160 for non-members for both days. The registration fee includes a booth with a table, two chairs and a tablecloth.

For more information, call 770-786-7510, e-mail Lisa Powell at lpowell@newtonchamber.com or visit www.newtonchamber.com.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.