Allen Ernst ran the Holiday Hilltop 5K in 17:58 Saturday morning in Shiloh.
But there were other winners who did not cross the finish line first, namely a 10-year-old girl battling a rare medical condition and her 12-year-old friend who wanted to help.
Abby Schuhardt, a fifth-grader at Shiloh Middle School, has been battling cervical arteriovenous malformation for two years.
The abnormal formation of veins and arteries around her spine caused her and her family to make countless trips to New York and Arizona for at least 18, maybe 20, surgeries, said her mother, Amy Schuhardt.
So Abby's friend, Emily Jansen, came up with the idea to have a 5K race to raise money for Abby's family. With a little help from her parents, Emily talked to more than 80 sponsors, asked the Shiloh Police Department and city officials for permission, and got their parish, Corpus Christi Catholic Church, to help put on the event.
"Emily did the whole thing," said Amy Schuhardt.
Emily said she got the idea after she ran her first 5K last year to benefit ALS.
"Since I was praying for Abby, I wanted to do something for her," said Emily, who is a seventh-grader at St. Clare Catholic School in O'Fallon.
Emily hoped 250 people would sign up for the race, but 551 ended up registered.
"I was shocked because I didn't think we were going to get that many," Emily said.
Dozens of runners put their feet to the pavement, but others walked the 3.1 mile course.
"It's really cool," Abby said, with a smile. She wore pink and white running shoes and a purple hat, as she walked hand-in-hand with her father, Rich Schuhardt.
"Overwhelmed," Rich Schuhardt said. "Just overwhelmed with the community ... very, very supportive."
As someone walked by the pair, she shouted out, "Abby, you're looking good!"
After walking for about a mile, Abby's leg started to bow inward while in stride, a result of a 2011 stroke that weakened her right side.
"She's tired," Amy Schuhardt said.
So Abby and her father finished the final two miles in a Shiloh Police car at the end of the race.
Amy Schuhardt, an avid exerciser, finished walking the race. "I almost feel like I need to finish for her," she said.
As she passed other walkers, she thanked them for coming and introduced herself as Abby's mother.
In October 2010, Abby's parents noticed a knot on the side of Abby's neck. They went to a chiropractor, who sent them to the hospital. The doctors in St. Louis would not touch her because it's such a rare condition, Amy Schuhardt said.
She described the "entanglement" of veins and arteries as "tree roots gone wild" around her daughter's spine.
So they got in touch with and expert, Dr. Robert Spetzler, director of the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix.
"Arizona said she is one in a million," Amy Schuhardt said.
Before the most recent surgery, the family was traveling every two to three months. Abby has missed 30-40 days the past two school years. Her older sister, 13-year-old Savannah, often was left to stay with friends, while the rest of the family went on emergency medical trips out of town.
Emily's parents, Vicki and Neil Jansen, started running last year. Neil Jansen estimated that at least $14,000 was raised between race registrations, donations and profits from a raffle and silent auction.
The Schuhardts asked that 10 percent all money raised be donated to the Corpus Christi Building Fund, to thank the parish for its support.
Emily originally tried to plan the 5K closer to Halloween, but there were too many races around that time, so they settled on Saturday. The December date and hilly course inspired the name.
"Having it around the holidays was good, because people are giving," said Vicki Jansen.
Things are looking up for the Schuhardts. Abby had successful surgery a few months ago.
"As of last week, she is stable," said Amy Schuhardt. "She is doing well, so traveling should be done for a while."
As a result, Abby did not miss a day of school during the first quarter. "She was excited -- that's new for her," Amy said. In addition, Abby made high honors.
Next year, doctors will perform a scan to see how Abby is doing.
Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2460.