Wednesday, November 20, 2013

It was a night of honors at City Council; stricken runner tells how Freeman Bailey walked her to the finish line

Story and photos by Holly Brucken and Morgen Wells
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Small towns can be home to some big heroes. Following a special meeting on Nov. 18 to approve the city's annual audit report, the Midway City Council proceeded with its regular meeting and recognized three Midway heroes.

Lloyd Jones, James "Buddy" Johnson and Freeman Bailey were thanked for service to the community through formal resolutions passed by the council.

Lloyd Jones of Midway, right, was honored for selflessness, passion and hard work and service on the Woodford County Parks and Recreation Board.

James "Buddy" Johnson gave 27 years of service to the county schools, and was honored for giving his time, talents and experiences to education and to the city. Below, Johnson holds the resolution with Mayor Tom Bozarth as they stand with council members and family members.

Freeman Bailey of Versailles, a Midway native who works for the county Emergency Medical Service, was honored for helping distressed runner Savannah Gillispie to the finish line at the Iron Horse Half Marathon Oct. 13. He found her at the eight-mile mark, on Weisenberger Mill Road near the city limits, unable to breathe.

“I hit mile eight and I hit a wall,” said Gillispie. “I really wanted to finish, but there were other runners beside me that called the paramedics.”

“When we got there she was sitting on the side of the road,” Bailey said. “She overexerted herself and was short of breath, but nothing major.”

Freeman Bailey and Savannah Gillispie listen to his resolution
Gillispie, 29, is a Lexington native who was running her second half-marathon. “I figured, I’ve done one before, so I didn’t train as hard as I probably should have,” she said. “We registered [for the race] after we should’ve started training. We had less than six weeks to get ready for it.”

Gillispie works for United Way and signed up for the half-marathon as a way to get to know some of her coworkers. She ran on a team of four. “They stopped and wanted to stay with me but I said ‘absolutely not’,” she said. “It was their first half. There’s nothing like the accomplishment of going through the finish line, so that’s why I had to finish.”

“We told her we’d walk with her to make sure she was okay,” Bailey said. “She’d walk a little ways, get winded; we’d recheck her vitals, make sure she was stable, and walk more until we finished.”

Bailey stayed with Gillispie through five miles of what she said was the worst pain she’d ever experienced. “I have never physically hurt so much, ever,” she said. “I was feeling great, ‘til I hit eight. Mentally I wasn’t ready to quit, but physically I was done. There were points where he was almost holding me up. He was great.”

Bailey walked the five miles with Gillispie in the heat, in full paramedic gear. By the time she reached the finish line, Gillispie was ready to jog again. “He said, ‘This is your race’ and let me go on.”

By the time she crossed the finish line, the race was being torn down. She came in at around four hours, over an hour longer than her first half-marathon. Nevertheless, she was encouraged. “There’s a camaraderie that happens in a half [marathon],”she said. “You’re racing and competing but everyone wants everyone to do their best. Even though the race was shut down people with medals were cheering me on.”

Gillispie won’t let her status as a self-described “distressed runner” affect her future, however. “It’s the most beautiful race I’ve ever run. I’ll come back next year.”

As for the veteran emergency medical technician, Bailey said he celebrated “Freeman Bailey Day” just like he celebrates every day. “I’m just thankful to be doing well and healthy,” he said. “I enjoy it the best I can.”

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