More than 170 participate in Oktoberfest 5K and 10K

Runners participate in the Oktoberfest 5K and 10K on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. (Lauren Estes)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Over 170 people registered for Oktoberfest 5K and 10K races on Saturday put on by WellStone of Cullman. 

One of those participants was mother of three and local runner Mandy Leonardi, who ran with her youngest son James, who is 6.

“My favorite part was running with him and seeing him achieve something big,” Leonardi said.  “Three miles is a lot for someone so small. I could not be more proud. His favorite part was the people cheering, especially the police officers cheering for him during the race.”

Leonardi said she has always used running as quiet time with Jesus and meditation for herself. 

“It is one of the most amazing things to experience with your son,” Leonardi said. “We like supporting others throughout the course; the running community is a really awesome thing, people you race against are cheering you on at the same time. We also enjoy the competition, and we both like to push ourselves to win and see how good we can do.”

James Leonardi added a few of his “whys” about his enjoyment of running. 

“I like running with my mom because it’s just us and she plays my favorite songs,” he said. “I like races because I like to try to win medals.” 

Local teacher and avid runner Leslie Arnold shared her enthusiasm for participating in racing events. 

“The thing I like best about running Cullman’s Oktoberfest 5K is that it is a local race, whereas most of the races I run I have to travel to a different destination,” Arnold said. “I love the fact that it supports a local charity which is WellStone. I’m glad that this is included in the celebration of the heritage of Cullman County.”

Arnold said that, in all honesty, there are some mornings when she wakes up thinking, “Why did I sign up for this race,” but her mind quickly changes when she gets to the starting line. 

“Upon arrival to the race all the goals that I’ve set, the training I’ve done and the accomplishments I’ve met makes nothing more exciting than crossing that finish line,” Arnold said. “Sometimes I may end up with a medal, and sometimes not, but the real reward is knowing that I finished whatever I started out to do. I really try to apply that principle to not only my running, but life in general.  Running with others always helps me push myself and encourages me to do the best that I can. The running community is very unique in that friends as well as total strangers are pushing me and encouraging me to not give up and cross the finish line.”

WellStone is North Alabama’s largest and most comprehensive behavioral health care provider.

It is a non-profit community organization, and offers a wide range of services, for every phase of life, from children to older adults. WellStone has offices in Huntsville and Cullman. For more information, visit:

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