"It's contagious, the way they're doing it," said resident Rick Robinette, waiting for the 5K to start. "You see people running, then you see them again, then you want to do it, too, so you think about it, then maybe the next month, you show up, and then you're hooked.
His wife, Suzanne, said the every-month schedule makes a big difference. "It's motivating," she said. "It makes me want to run in between 5Ks, to get in better shape, to see if I can do better next month."
So far, it's paying for itself, Hatfield said. They charge $20 for adults, $5 for kids. Everyone gets a T-shirt, and every child gets a little trophy. Sometimes, sponsors kick in. Williamson Memorial Hospital sponsored a recent run.
"Our aims go hand in hand with the aims of the Diabetes Coalition," Hatfield said. "This is a good partnership."
"What we're doing is, we're adding running and walking to the county cultural mix," said Vicki Hatfield. "It's not weird to run down the street anymore."
Most Mingo adults are not going to jump up off the couch and start running, she knows. "But some will, and a lot more will think about it, so we're starting there. It will spread."
Mingo County has one of the state's highest unemployment rates and lowest per capita incomes. "And walking or running doesn't cost a dime, once you've got shoes," she said. "This is something any county could do."
"Something is happening around here," said retired teacher Dru Simpkins, waiting for the October 5K to start. "Something is changing."
People who run with Batausa see some of the changes. Sometimes, they run past the farmers market and the two new hoop greenhouses that supply it. They run past the community gardens where, in warm weather, elderly people grow corn in the middle of town. Sometimes, they run up the mountain to the new pick-your-own orchard. Or they run on acres outside town where the Redevelopment Authority is creating a recreation area with hiking/biking trails.
"It used to be that you never saw anybody out walking," said Simpkins' walking buddy, Mary Ann Elia, 59. She and her friends walk 4 miles a day now, she said. "Now we always run into people walking or running on the floodwall and in the streets,"
Scott Suttles, from nearby Pikeville, Ky., called it cultural change in action. "I think we're revising our own stereotype of ourselves," he said.
The next monthly run is a night run at 7 p.m. on March 22. Registration begins at 5 p.m. at 201 Central Ave. in South Williamson.
Reach Kate Long at 304-348-1798 or katel...@wvgazette.com.
"The Shape We're In" has been supported by a Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism fellowship, administered by the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.