When Amy Linthicum, 72, decided to quit smoking, she promised herself that once she kicked the habit, she’d start running. But, after a year of failed attempts, she reversed her philosophy, instead telling herself, “When I start running, I’ll quit smoking.” And sure enough, her philosophy worked. 

Amy’s only goal starting out was to get a little bit farther with every run. However, she quickly fell in love with the sport and competed in the Chicago Marathon in October 1985, followed shortly after by the St. Jude Memphis Marathon. In the midst of it all, an opportunity arose at Amy’s job to construct a fundraising event for a local nonprofit. 

“Back then, there was a lot in the news about Memphis Boys Town,” Amy recalls. “They were in a desperate situation. Funding at that time was low, and the campus in Memphis-Arlington was extremely run down.” 

Integrating her passion for running with a desire to help children in need, Amy and the rest of her team at Memphis Board of Realtors decided to organize a 5k race for Boys Town. “It’s pretty amazing. I always laugh and say I started the race in the trunk of my car,” she says.

Forty years later, it has become one of the longest-standing 5k runs in Memphis – and Amy’s involvement hasn’t wavered. “This whole event has enriched my life in so many ways,” she adds.

In 1986, Boys Town merged with a secondary residential community, Dogwood Village, to become Youth Villages. Since their first race in 1982, the organization has raised a total of 2.25 million dollars, contributing to building program models, services, and partnerships designed to advocate for positive change in the child welfare systems. 

Today, they have launched over 100 locations in 23 states – and in West Tennessee alone, Youth Villages has served over 6,000 children.

“One thing, too, about the run – there’s like a ripple effect,” Amy notes. “People in Memphis and Shelby County…they start to learn about what we are and who we are.”

Memphis residents Glen and Margaret Stewart have been fans of the race since the beginning. “We both have competed in 28 of ‘em,” Glen recalls. His wife likes to refer to it as the “ideal race.” Together, they’ve accumulated quite the assortment of prizes over the years – from a set of tiles hand-painted by the children at Youth Villages to a couple of clocks still on display in their kitchen. 

The Stewarts also plan to attend this year’s race, which will take place on Saturday, October 22, at 1000 Ridgeway Loop Road in Memphis. 

Following the 5k, attendees are invited to stick around for food, festivities, and musical entertainment. In light of their 40th anniversary, Amy has hinted at some special prizes for participants.

Amy’s role as co-director of the 40th YV5k has put a lot on her plate, but despite it all, she has stayed committed to getting out and moving her body daily. “I’m 72, so what I say I do is I slog – that’s a very slow jog,” she laughs. Amy has also formed a weekly habit of attending Club Pilates in East Memphis, where she focuses primarily on core strength and balance.

When asked what she’s most looking forward to about this year’s race, she says, “My dream for our 40th anniversary is to have a great crowd, beautiful weather, and to see huge smiles on the faces of the kids as they experience the pride of crossing that finish line for the first time!”

Participants can register online for the YV5k until Tuesday, October 18, by visiting Youthvillages5k.org. Walk-up registration is also available at packet pick-up on Friday, October 21, and race day from 7:15 to 8:00 a.m. 

By Colleen May 

Photo by Sam Sikes