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'Wunning Wabbits' of Du Quoin post 'wespectable' time in River to River Relay

  • Wadical Wunning Wabbits member Conner Eaton sets a great pace at Saturday's River to River Relay.

    Wadical Wunning Wabbits member Conner Eaton sets a great pace at Saturday's River to River Relay.
    Photo provided by Wunning Wabbits

  • Jason Cobin, one of the Wadical Wunning Wabbits, brandishes his baton, wrapped in a 'special felt pouch' that looks like a carrot, the better to keep the baton from slipping out of sweaty wabbit hands, said Team Manager Jason Leek.

    Jason Cobin, one of the Wadical Wunning Wabbits, brandishes his baton, wrapped in a 'special felt pouch' that looks like a carrot, the better to keep the baton from slipping out of sweaty wabbit hands, said Team Manager Jason Leek.
    Photo provided by Wunning Wabbits

 
By Chanda Green
Contributing Writer
updated: 4/27/2017 5:56 PM

Last year, it was the Wetro Wunning Wabbits relay team. This year, it was the Weturn of the Wunning Wabbits.
"We come up with some variation of the wabbits each year," team manager Jason Leek of Du Quoin said. "This is our eighth year to run in the River to River Relay."
Saturday morning's relay started cold and rainy with delayed starts (about 8:30) and a small course change to avoid some low-lying areas that were prone to flooding -- a change that took about three miles off of the 80-mile course.
"That kind of thing happens," Leek said. "The race director made some last-minute decisions and everything worked out very well. And there's no way a little rain could dampen our spirits."
The team started off strong despite more than an hour of steady rain on the course, putting some serious hills -- "some small mountains" -- behind them without injuries.
"This race is really hilly," Leek said. "That puts you at greater risk for injury."
Each member of each eight-member team runs three legs, a little more than 3 miles each leg for a total of about 10 miles for each runner.
"You get one and half to two hours rest between legs, so it's not as difficult as people think," Leek said. "I tell people that if you can run five to six miles non-stop and feel pretty good, you can run three legs of this relay.
"Just get to the point where you can run that several times a week, then throw in some hills and you'll be ready for the River to River Relay."
The Wadical Wunning Wabbits finished the race in 10 hours, five minutes and 47 seconds, an average of roughly 7:33 per mile. That's a wespectable time for the wabbits, earning them 40th place overall in a field of 223 teams.
"We weren't the winners, but we had a wonderful time," Leek said. "We're out here to have fun. One of these years we'll get all serious and give everyone a run for their money, but not this year."
It was Leek's 14th year running in this race. He's been running since he was 3 years old.
"Seriously, my folks tell the story of my running in the Herrin Straight Away Mile, part of the annual HerrinFesta Italiana celebration, when I was three," he said.
Leek has run on several other River to River relay teams, but missed running with friends.
"Basically I was running with strangers," he said. "So, I started my own team with the Wunning Wabbits. I wanted that responsibility. I wanted to do things my way. I wanted everyone to have fun and to be running among friends. Since then, it's been pretty much the same group."
Leek said that every runner has his or own special reason to run.
"I run because it makes me feel clean inside, an inner kind of clean, mental freedom. I run because of how good I feel when I run," he said. "That and I'm a glutton for punishment. I'm always the first one to sign up for the most difficult leg of the race."