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Olympic qualifier among runners for Reagan race

SNELLVILLE - Tom Kutter's life is much like the race he runs so well: a long laborious effort with a sweet reward.

After a "mildly successful" high school running career and earning a scholarship after walking on his college track team, Kutter is reaching his athletic potential at age 26.

For the teacher, life is a marathon, and after years of training, he's qualified for the Olympic trials in the marathon event.

Kutter is the hometown favorite in this weekend's Run the Reagan, a race that brings hundreds of athletes to run along Ronald Reagan Parkway. He won last year's half-marathon event with a time of 1 hour, 8 minutes, 11 seconds.

"It's a sense of pride to run the races where you're living," Kutter said. "I definitely have noticed the road more when I drive down it now."

The Ohio native has spent a lifetime setting realistic goals and working tirelessly to reach them. And he made the last one: to qualify for the Olympic trials.

"This is just a guy with an average background, who said, 'I think I can do that,' and he did it," race organizer Tom Mayfield said of Kutter. "He's a world-class athlete, but he would never tell you that. He's a fantastic person."

Mayfield is excited to hold an event where runners can have a chance not only to compete but also enjoy a February morning with their families.

He's helped craft Run the Reagan into a unique community event boasting nearly 2,000 runners and more than 200 volunteers.

At 8 a.m. Saturday, the half-marathon event will begin, but runners can also compete in 10K and 5K events later in the morning, and the young and old alike can participate in a one-mile "fun run," which includes parents pushing strollers.

The event, which raises money for the Gwinnett Community Clinic, YoungLife and Gwinnett Outreach, also includes a family festival.

"There's something for everybody," Mayfield said.

This year, organizers decided to make contributions to high school athletic departments that put together a team.

The challenging course over the rolling hills of north Georgia will be a great warm-up to the Olympic trials in November, Kutter said, although he's nervous about Saturday because of a sore Achilles' tendon.

As a coach at Shiloh High School, Kutter tries to instill a love of running in everyone he meets.

"It's so beneficial in relieving stress. It just makes people feel better," he said. "I hope people will go out and try to push their limits. ... It's really helped me in all areas of my life."

To register for Run the Reagan:

•Online at www.runthereagan.com through Wednesday.

•Register Friday from noon to 8 p.m. at Grace Fellowship Church, 1400 Dogwood Road, Snellville

•Registration is also available on race day, beginning at 6 a.m. in the Up the Creek parking lot on Ronald Reagan Parkway

Event costs:

•Half-marathon $45, $50 on race day

•5K and 10K $25, $30 on race day

•1-mile fun run $15

•Family Festival from 8 a.m. to

1 p.m. is free.

Schedule:

Saturday

•Half-marathon 8 a.m.

•10K 8:15 a.m.

•5K 9:15 a.m.

•1-mile fun run 9:30 a.m.