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Thursday last day to sign up for Ella's Run

File Photo Ruth Moore, right, stretches out and warms up as her boxer Jake sits at her feet before the start of Ella's Run at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center last year.

File Photo Ruth Moore, right, stretches out and warms up as her boxer Jake sits at her feet before the start of Ella's Run at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center last year.

BUFORD -- The fourth annual Ella's Run is bright and early Saturday morning at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center in Buford, but Thursday is the last day to register your spot online.

For those who don't know the back story of the event, it is to celebrate the memory of Meredith Hope Emerson who went missing on Jan. 1, 2008 while hiking in Blairsville, Ga. with her dog, Ella, who she had adopted from a rescue shelter. She was found six days later murdered in the woods.

"We started the foundation of Right to Hike for Meredith because she loved the outdoors," said Julia Karrenbauer, president of the foundation.

Hundred of friends, family and other supporters will run, walk and get dirty in the name of Emerson.

"It's a day that feels bittersweet," Karrenbauer said. "It feels like the community comes together because no one should do this to our community. We want to make it safer."

A majority of the proceeds will go to Right to Hike's No. 1 objective: to donate emergency cellphone units on trails to give hikers more security in serious situations. The organization has given three phones to date: one at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center, one at the Suwanee Greenway and another at Gary Pirkle Park in Sugar Hill.

The rest of the money will go toward grant scholarships given to students at the University of Georgia who would like to study abroad in France, which was something Emerson did and loved.

New this year is a mud run which shares a course with those in the regular 5K, but then continues on to the Sweetgum Trail where things really get messy.

No matter which course people sign up for, it will be a work out.

"Meredith wouldn't have wanted the course to be easy," Karrenbauer said. "She would have wanted more of a challenge."

Those who participate receive a long sleeve T-shirt, a ticket for food and the beer garden, and be able to enjoy live entertainment to "celebrate the day."

Online registration closes Thursday at 11:59 p.m. on www.active.com. There is same-day registration available but costs $5 more.