LIVE OAK, Fla. — Completing the Pregnancy Care Center’s 5K last year, Ronda Johnson saw the shirt for the first time.

Several participants were wearing a “Run For God” shirt, so Johnson asked one of them, John Bell, about it.

Now, Johnson is looking to lead her second “Run For God” challenge ministry at Westwood Baptist Church leading into the Jingle Bell 5K Fun Run on Dec. 5 that coincides with Christmas on the Square. The 12-week course begins Thursday and will meet every Thursday from 6-7:30 p.m. Anybody is welcome to join the group, Johnson said, stressing that it’s not just for Westwood members.

“I just want people moving,” Johnson said. “Whatever it takes. I’m trying to inspire and motivate people to basically get off the couch.

“If they’re not a Christian, that’s OK too…I just want to inspire, motivate, encourage. Because we can do it. We need to do it. We’ve gotten lazy.”

Earlier this year, Johnson’s group had 40 members from ages 6 to 80 that took part in the Donate Life “Be a Hero” 5K in April. She tried to get Bell to lead it as well as several Westwood members that she knew were runners. They all told her they would help, but they weren’t going to run the group.

“So I finally said, ‘Well, if God brings you to it, He’ll get you through it,’” she said, adding she was unsure about the running part of the challenge. “He did. And it was amazing.”

Johnson said not only were the relationships formed during the training amazing, but so were some of the health results of various members.

Susan Alexander had been on oxygen for a year after a serious health scare and was the first person to approach Johnson about joining after it was announced during a Westwood service. Alexander said through prayer, God was telling her to start moving more.

During the 5K to end the challenge, Alexander finished in 63 minutes while pushing her oxygen in a walker.

The list of medical issues that plagued Ted Johns went on and on, from nerve problems in both legs to arthritis to plantar fasciitis. Prior to the “Run For God” group meeting, Johns had trouble walking from the back of the church to the front of the church.

At the “Be a Hero” 5K, he finished in 73 minutes, even refusing to be picked up by organizers on a golf cart to get to the finish line.

“He said, ‘I didn’t start this race not to finish it,’” Johnson said. “What a blessing is that?

“It was a milestone for a lot of people.”

The training to reach that milestone includes a 45-minute class and a 45-minute training session each week — those participating are also instructed to do two additional personal training dates per week. In addition to spiritual learning in the classes, Johnson said there is also physical learning. In the second week class, personnel from Fit To Walk in Gainesville will talk about the importance of shoes. She said other speakers during the 12-week course will include physical therapists and runners.

“It teaches you how to do it, too,” she said. “You have to take your health in your own hands. This is my way of trying to show people and inspire them. I’m not really going after runners, I’m going after people that are on the couch. Let’s just move.”

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