The feeling that comes with crossing the finish line is one Faith Russell didn't want to end.
"Everybody is saying 'Go Faith' and it just makes me really happy to see all those people cheering me on," Faith, an 8-year-old Maryville resident, said.
Since her first race in March, Faith continues to push herself past the limits Spina Bifida tried to put on her.
"From the beginning I was so afraid to let her try because I didn't want her to face defeat at an early age," Faith's mom, Robin Russell, said. "So I tried to ignore her request to do one and finally when she said, 'I want to show people God made me walk' I knew we had to do it."
Faith was told at birth she may never walk and now her doctors are encouraging her to continue her exercise.
Her entire family along with dozens of others in the Maryville community have joined Team Faith to offer encouragement and support. You can find her family and others in the bright neon t-shirts at races about once a month in the area.
Her trainer, also known as her 11-year-old big brother Griffin, works out with her several times a week.
"We jog on the treadmill, we ride our bikes, jump on the trampoline," Griffin said as they walked the 1-mile loop at a Maryville park this week.
Faith is now racking up the trophies. She has completed one race every month since March.
She proudly showed off her favorite trophy. "It's pink and it has 'strong and courageous' on it," she said. That's been her motto throughout her training from the Bible verse Joshua 1:9.
Faith's Birthday 5K
Not long after she started walking, Faith decided she wanted Team Faith to host a 5K of their own.
"It makes me feel good that I've done six races," she said. "For my birthday, I'm trying to reach a goal for my birthday race."
"We learned early on not to underestimate her. Last year for her birthday she wanted to do Operation Christmas Child and she wanted to send 50 boxes. I was thinking eight for her eighth birthday, but we ended up packing 150 boxes. She always has big goals, big dreams and somehow they always happen," Robin said.
Her mom was again hesitant, never having organized a 5K race before. But Maryville businesses and others have helped to make it happen.
One day before her ninth birthday, Saturday, September 27, Team Faith will host its first race. The race will be held at 9:00 a.m. at Sandy Springs Park in Maryville.
All of the proceeds will go toward her new brother, Owen, who is living in Haiti. The family is in the process of adopting Owen. Faith told her mom she knows how expensive adoptions can be and wanted to help out.
Visit https://runsignup.com/race/tn/maryville/oneless5kbyteamfaith to sign up for the race.