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5K takes runners through serene grounds of monastery

Special Photo ---- Father Girard receives an award for his performance in the 2012 Monastery 5K Run/Walk and Fun Run.

Special Photo ---- Father Girard receives an award for his performance in the 2012 Monastery 5K Run/Walk and Fun Run.

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Special Photo ---- Runners in the Monastery 5K Run/Walk and Fun Run kick off the 2012 race.

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Special Photo ---- A family runs the route through the monastery grounds during the 2012 Monastery 5K Run/Walk and Fun Run

More than 800 runners and walkers are expected to take part in the upcoming fourth Annual Monastery 5K Run/Walk and Fun Run early next month at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. The annual benefit event has continued to grow each year, with 800 turning out for last year's run and walk and at least that many or more expected this year, according to Brother Callistus Crichlow, who is helping coordinate the event.

The 5K run/walk is set for June 8, and will feature a little more than a 3-mile route through the beautiful monastery landscape. The Fun Run is a 1-mile trek. The monks at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit have made the 2,000-acre campus, which features gardens, lakes and wildlife, their home since 1944.

"It's a very scenic route," Crichlow said. "It takes you through the monastery, including the cloistered grounds the public doesn't get to see. It's very beautiful."

Crichlow also said the last quarter mile of the event is on the path that is being prepared as part of the Arabia Mountain Heritage Trail, which should be officially opened by next year's event.

"We're very excited about it," Crichlow said.

This year's event begins with check-in at 6:30 a.m., before Mass at 7 a.m., which is open to anyone who would like to attend. Awards will be given for age groups, men, women, overall men, overall women and masters. Runners will be categorized into age groups ranging from 12 and younger to 60 and older.

After the race, everyone is invited to the Monastic Heritage Center, where guests can view a display featuring the history of monasticism, shop in the gift shop and bonsai store and visit the bonsai garden.

The Monastery 5K Run/Walk is a benefit to raise funds to help support the historic monastery, Crichlow said, adding that the idea for such a fundraiser was brought to him several years ago by John Collard of Conyers, an avid runner who operates Revolution Running.

"He has a regular 9-to-5 job, but started (Revolution Running) on the side to benefit local nonprofits," he said. "He really loves the monastery ... He gets a lot of volunteers involved and it's very well organized."

Registration is open but limited to 900 participants this year. Fees are $25 for the 5K Run ($30 after June 1); $15 for the 1-Mile Fun Run and children 10 and younger run for free, but do not receive a T-shirt. Participants may view specific requirements and register online by visiting www.trappist.net.

The Monastery of the Holy Spirit is a Roman Catholic contemplative religious community belonging to the worldwide Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, more commonly known as Trappists. The Monastery of the Holy Spirit is the first native-born Trappist foundation in the U.S., and the first daughter-house of Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky. Founded in 1944, the monastery is a community of 36 monks spanning several generations who live, work and pray at the Abbey.

A few of the monks are also avid runners, Crichlow said, adding that they will be taking part in the upcoming run/walk next month. He encourages everyone in the community to join the event, which he said offers an opportunity for avid runners, as well as children and the elderly who enjoy the fun run and walk.

The Monastery of the Holy Spirit is located at 2625 Ga. Highway 212 in Conyers.