MAURY REGIONAL HEALTH CARE FOUNDATION
When runners take their marks at the starting line of the Mule Kick 5K on Saturday, April 1 at Columbia’s Riverwalk Park, J.R. and Margaret Vaughn plan to once again be in the pack holding hands.
The Columbia couple, who both turn 81 this year, will participate in the annual Mule Day Saturday kick-off event for the third time together. The Vaughns stand out in the Mule Kick crowd: he wears a cowboy hat and holds his wife’s hand as they run along the scenic pathways near Duck River and downtown.
The Mule Kick 5K and 1-Mile Trot is hosted by the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation and presented by Community First Bank & Trust. The 5K begins at 8 a.m. and the one-mile event will follow at 9 a.m.
Runners and walkers are encouraged to participate. Participants will receive a T-shirt and awards will be given to the top finishers. The 1-Mile Trot will award the top three male and female overall finishers. This year, the Vaughns will compete as members of the Super Grandmasters awards category—a division new to this year’s race for participants age 70 and older.
The Vaughns have been married since 2013 and enjoy staying active through walking, jogging and dancing at local venues. In fact, they met while dancing to country music on a day that Margaret had completed a half marathon. “She ran 13 miles that day and then danced for four hours on the day we met,” J.R. said.
J.R. invited Margaret to dinner the following day and says that she immediately began showing him ways to improve his diet by including lots of vegetables and baked fish and staying away from fried foods.
Margaret’s focus on a healthier lifestyle began in 2000 with encouragement from her son who is a long-distance runner with many miles under the soles of his shoes. She has participated in countless race events, including 5K races, half marathons and long-distance events. When she introduced J.R. to running, she suggested he would need to find some new shoes. “He never wore anything but (cowboy) boots all of his life,” she said. “When we started running, I told him he had to get some tennis shoes.”
Her husband bought some tennis shoes, but still wears his trademark cowboy hat while running and holding his wife’s hand. “I always hold her hand,” J.R. said. “I’m known as the guy who pulls her up the hills.”
In the last two years, the couple has participated in more than 30 running events, including the Mule Kick 5K, and has many medals and trophies from the various racing events they have completed. During race season, they try to run three to four miles a day. To some, that may sound like a lot but J.R. explains that you can always choose to walk instead of run. “If you walk pretty peppy, you can walk two miles in an hour or so,” he said.
Margaret tries to inspire people of all ages to improve their lifestyle through fitness and nutrition. She encourages parents to make certain their children are eating the proper foods and getting enough exercise. At the same time, she says “it’s never too late” for older adults to change their habits. “I would tell people if it is nothing but walking to the mailbox, do it,” she said. “Keep moving. Just don’t give up.”
The couple are among hundreds who have already registered for the Mule Kick 5K. Registration remains underway online at MuleKick5K.org. Onsite registration and packet pickup for those who pre-register will take place on Friday, March 31 from 4 until 7 p.m. at the Riverwalk Pavilion and on the morning of the race from 7 until 7:30 a.m. In case of inclement weather, packet pickup and registration will take place inside the gym of nearby Riverside Elementary School.
Proceeds from this year’s Mule Kick 5K and 1-Mile Trot will go toward the purchase of a mobile health care unit that the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation will use throughout southern Middle Tennessee to provide basic health screenings and education to rural and underserved areas. A portion of the proceeds will also be donated to the Wellness and Aquatic Center Healthy Living Endowment and the City of Columbia Parks and Recreation Department.
For additional information about the Mule Kick 5K event or to support the mobile health care unit project, contact the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation at 931.380.4075 or visit MauryRegionalFoundation.com