Lee Follett of Smithsburg ran on U.S. 40 from Nottingham Road to Hagerstown’s Public Square Wednesday, but that wasn’t his biggest goal.
“I’m hoping to be able to run 1,500 meters in less than 10 minutes eventually,” he said. “I like competing.”
Follett, 35, was among the Special Olympians who took part in the Washington County leg of the 27th annual Maryland Torch Run Relay.
He ran with local law-enforcement officers carrying the “Flame of Hope” across a section of Western Maryland to the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics Maryland Summer Games.
Follett, who has participated in the relay for about 15 years, said he competed in the 2003 Special Olympics World Games in Ireland, winning the 200-meter gold medal and the shot-put silver medal. He said he also competes because he enjoys it.
“I like making friends, and you get to meet new people doing this,” he said. “In Ireland, I got to meet people from other countries.”
The event began Wednesday morning in Hancock and was scheduled to travel along U.S. 40 to the Frederick County line at South Mountain, according to a news release from the city of Hagerstown.
Runners and others stopped for a short ceremony in the square.
Hagerstown resident Robert Scrother, 35, said he has been taking part in the relay since 2000. Scrother, who also began his run from Nottingham Road, said he planned to make it all the way to South Mountain.
“It’s a nice workout, and my favorite sport is running,” he said. “It also gives us a nice chance to come out and meet people.”
At the square, Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith presented Vicki Follett, track coach and assistant director for Washington County Special Olympics, with a proclamation declaring June 6 as 2012 Law Enforcement Torch Run Day.
“This really gives these people something to look forward to and something to remember,” Smith said. “It’s a nice event.”
Follett said the publicity coming from the relay is good for people who have relationships with people with disabilities.
“When they see it in the paper, and when they see that they’re down on the square, they’ll say, ‘Oh I know somebody with a disability that could compete in sports,’” she said. “The support we have from our local police department is great.”
Spectators showed up to cheer, including Teresa Magaha, 59, of Hagerstown, who used to be a coach for Special Olympians.
“(The Special Olympians) never give up, and they’re always there for each other,” Magaha said. “I look forward to this every year.”
Magaha said events like Wednesday’s show that people with disabilities cannot be ignored.
“They’re not in the closet anymore,” she said. “They’re out at places, they have jobs, and they still deserve the right to get out and show people what they can do.”