The presidential race finally comes to an end next week, but a far more positive race makes a welcome return on Saturday in Stratford. Whereas the results of this year\u2019s political cycle will long be remembered for lowering the bar on civility, this weekend\u2019s Vicki Soto Memorial 5K Run\/Walk will continue a tribute that highlights the very best in us all. The presidential hopefuls have spent almost two years playing on deep-seated fears to divide us, but the previous three editions of the Vicki Soto Memorial 5K have seen more than 7,000 participants from around the country gather to celebrate a legacy of peace and hope. The run was started to honor Stratford High alumna Vicki Soto, the young teacher murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting who died trying to protect the students she\u2019d hidden from a madman. The fund supports students who pursue careers in teaching, awarding more than $40,000 in educational scholarships so far. Her family created the Vicki Soto Memorial Fund to honor Vicki\u2019s passion for life and commitment to teaching. The fund has hosted community book drives, established free library locations around the Stratford community and donated hundreds of children\u2019s books to local teachers, classrooms, libraries, and schools. In addition, proceeds from the fund have helped launch \u201cMiss Soto\u2019s Literacy Legacy,\u201d which provides to more than 200 classrooms the opportunity to collectively read books that promote and encourage kindness. I became aware of the scope of the Soto family\u2019s devotion to Vicki\u2019s memory during a discussion with Matthew, Vicki\u2019s younger brother. We spoke about the opening of the Stratford elementary school named in her honor last year (http:\/\/www.trumbulltimes.com\/37529\/walsh-the-enduring-lesson). When our talk turned to the 5K run, I got very quiet. As a teacher myself, I\u2019d felt the impact of that horrible event on a number of levels. Like most of my colleagues in education, I\u2019d imagined myself in her position; I shuddered at the decisions she had to make in a matter of seconds. Contemplating the life she could have lived \u2014 and the lives she could have continued to touch \u2014 made it even harder. The ensuing years found me constantly checking to make sure I\u2019m earning this extended time that Vicki never had a chance to experience. A morbidly obese 49-year-old who could barely make it up a set of stairs without an oxygen mask was not what I had in mind. After that discussion with Matthew last year, I promised myself I\u2019d run that 5K in 2016. In January, I made sure I couldn\u2019t back out by committing to the race in a column explaining my New Year\u2019s resolutions. Now that Saturday\u2019s race is upon us, I\u2019m wondering what the heck I was thinking. I\u2019ve huffed and puffed around the neighborhood for the last few months in a desperate attempt to complete a mile without stopping, then two. I\u2019ve worn out two sets of earbuds listening to songs like \u201cFreebird\u201d and \u201cWon\u2019t Get Fooled Again\u201d on a loop while lumbering around our streets like some drunken Forrest Gump. I can\u2019t in good conscience call what I do \u201crunning.\u201d It\u2019s more an exercise in leaning forward and breathing heavily, all the while hoping passersby don\u2019t call for an ambulance. I don\u2019t know if I\u2019ll be able to \u201crun\u201d the entire 3.2 miles, but that was never the point. Saturday will see a different man than the one who made that promise to himself last summer: I\u2019ve lost almost 70 pounds in my five months training for this 5K. Unlike Tuesday\u2019s culmination of the presidential election, this race inspired me to reach deep inside for something better. As Vicki herself once wrote on her Facebook page, \u201cLife comes with no guarantee, no time outs, no second chances. You just have to live life to the fullest \u2026\u201d This family-friendly 5K run\/walk will go through the picturesque Lordship section of Stratford, Vicki's hometown. There will be a kids fun run and activities tent (featuring face painters, artists and more) in addition to food and beer tents following the race. All proceeds benefit the Vicki Soto Memorial Fund Inc., a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Find out more at www.vickisoto5k.com. In the meantime, if you happen to notice an overweight man wearing bib #2600, hold off on calling that ambulance until he crosses the finish line. You can read more at RobertFWalsh.com, contact him at RobertFWalshMail@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.