Registration open for Annual Conference 5k beach run

Participants in the Annual Conference 2015 5k will head north from Daytona's Main Street Pier and help stamp out malaria with every step they take. Photo by Susan Green.

LAKELAND – It wasn’t a race, but registration for the upcoming 5k run at Daytona Beach no sooner opened Wednesday than people were signing up.

"We’re taking that to mean people really enjoyed the event last year, and we’re going to have success this year,” said Rev. Sarah Miller, senior pastor at Tuskawilla UMC, Casselberry, who is coordinating the Annual Conference fundraising event for the second time.

More than 200 people ranging in age from 7 to 77 ran or walked the approximately 3-mile distance during the inaugural 5k at last year’s Annual Conference in Lakeland. The event raised about $5,000 for Imagine No Malaria, and organizers are hoping it will generate that much or more for the same cause the second time around.
Sarah Miller headshot
           Rev. Sarah Miller

This year, Annual Conference is slated for June 10-13 at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona. Organizers decided to stake out a stretch of beach starting at the Main Street Pier near Breakers Oceanfront Park and heading north about 1.5 miles, where participants will turn around and make their way back. The run-walk will kick off at 6:30 a.m. Thursday, June 11, just in time for sunrise.

“The sand there on that stretch of beach is as hard as concrete,” Miller said. “It will be a suitable location for people who are walking or running.”

For those new to running, now is the ideal time to start training, Miller said. She recommends “The Couch to 5k in 9 weeks” running program at for tips to get ready, including a training program for exercise, hydration and nutrition.

Those who don’t have time to train or who get a late start should feel free to walk, and they will have plenty of company, Miller predicted. Participants who plan to run will be invited to leave the starting line first, leaving plenty of room for those who want to take their time. Last year, a couple with a child in a stroller took part, Miller said.

New this year is an opportunity for people who can’t participate but want to support the cause. They can donate or sponsor a runner from their family or church through

“It’s a fun way to get other people involved,” said Kylie Foley, Florida Conference field coordinator for the Imagine No Malaria campaign, who already has signed up to participate in the 5k.

This year, organizers were able to find sponsors to cover the expenses of the run-walk, Miller said, and thus all donations will go toward the Florida Conference goal of $2.5 million for Imagine No Malaria.

Miller said conference delegates and their families are encouraged to participate if they can.

“We want to promote healthy lifestyles for our clergy in the conference and laity,” Miller said. “God has given us our bodies to steward them. … One way to do that is through healthy living.”

Last year’s event offered some inspiring moments. Miller recalled the participant who finished last but perhaps also finished best.

“When she crossed the finish line, she was just weeping with joy,” Miller said. “She had been struggling so much in her life with mobility.”

The event immediately sparks a spirit of community and support among participants, she said.

“Once people cross the finish line, they don’t just get in their cars and leave,” she said. Some make their way back along the course and encourage those still trying to finish.

“They start cheering,” Miller said. “And as more people finish and the crowd swells, it’s a beautiful thing to watch.”

Parking is expected to be available at the oceanfront park, but participants are encouraged to carpool. To register for the event, click here. For information, contact Miller at

The 5k will be a missional highlight of Annual Conference 2015, which will focus largely on election of clergy and lay delegates to General Conference and the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference in 2016. Click here for the roster of nominees so far, as well as information about self-nominating on the opening day of Annual Conference.

Another highlight will be leadership training sessions by Rev. Adam Hamilton, founder of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.

For information on Annual Conference 2015, click here and check back for updates in the weeks ahead.

Susan Green is the Florida Conference managing editor. 

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