Charleston Distance Run to honor memory of Joni Adams

Joni Adams, shown in this file photo competing in a local race, will be recognized at the Charleston Distance Run. The race had named several of the three-person, 15-mile relay categories in her honor. (Photo Courtesy of

Joni Adams loved the Charleston Distance Run, running the grueling 15-mile race every year since 1976 when she was the first female finisher from West Virginia.

But Adams, who lost her life during Kanawha County’s devastating floods in June, invested much more in this capital city classic than just the sweat and the effort it took to pound up and down its challenging hills.

A devoted race committee member since 1999, she was known for her innovative suggestions and support. In 2004, she created the popular three-person, 15-mile relay.

“Joni loved to run and to run races, but she loved the Charleston Distance Run most of all,” CDR Director John Palmer said

Committee members are making sure her dedication will be recognized. The top male, female and coed relay team awards for this year’s event and into the future will be called the Joni Adams Relay Award.

Bib number 50, the bib number Adams would have worn in the Sept. 3 race, will be used during this year’s 15-miler by her nephew, Caleb Adams. The winner of the 2015 5K, he is stepping up to run the longer race this year to honor his aunt.

There also will be an extra bib number 50 displayed in memoriam at the packet pickup the night before the race at the Charleston Civic Center.

Since her death, the running community has rallied together to show its appreciation and support for Adams. An unofficial race was held – Miles for Joni – that raised several thousand dollars for the Kanawha Charleston animal shelter, where she volunteered. Runner’s World magazine’s online edition featured a story about her.

Palmer said he knew Adams’ father, George Adams, who was an FBI agent and a runner. He said she was immensely proud of him and was trying to save his memorabilia at her house when the flooding occurred.

“Joni was always helping others. As a runner, she was always giving encouragement and advice to others —new runners, old runners, friends, competitors— always trying to help,” Palmer said.

Palmer said each time he received an email from Adams since he took over as race director she thanked him for his work.

“Joni was positive about everything. I don’t think that she ever had a negative thought. Joni touched so many people’s lives that she will never be forgotten," he said.

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