Run Duffy Run: Local runner Duffy Sutton runs a 5K race in all 120 Kentucky counties

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Dressed as Forrest Gump, Duffy Sutton completed his final Kentucky 5K road race on Oct. 2, in Washington County. After completing his final Kentucky 120-county 5K race, Sutton was greeted by friends and family to celebrate his monumental statewide feat.

In the fictional Hollywood movie 'Forrest Gump', the main character - played by actor Tom Hanks - sets out to run continuously for three years, two months, 14 days, and 16 hours.

In real life, local 5K running legend Duffy Sutton set out on his own running journey that actually lasted five years, three months, 13 days and 23 hours. Although Sutton didn't run continuously during that lengthy span of time, he probably did something much more amazing than what was portrayed on the silver screen.

After first running just a couple of local 5K races back in 2009, Duffy Sutton got the idea to try run a 5K race each of Kentucky's 120 counties.

Dressed as Forrest Gump, Sutton completed his final Kentucky 5K road race on Oct. 2, in Washington County. After completing his final Kentucky 120-county 5K race, Sutton was greeted by friends and family to celebrate his monumental statewide feat.

"My two boys - Cody and Logan - were running on the Somerset High School cross country team in 2009, and they talked me into start running for the health benefits, " Sutton recalled. "After running in just a couple of 5K's that first year, I ran 27 races in 2015 and was up to 62 races in 2018. Along the way, I met a couple of runners who told me they were trying to run a 5K race in every county in Kentucky, and that sort of interested me."

And in no time at all, with the help and support of his wife Anita, Sutton had set his sights on running a race in every county in the Commonwealth.

When Sutton begin his statewide running journey, in 2016, he had no idea how long it would take or what would be involved in trying to complete this colossal mission.

Not only was Sutton's physical limits tested in this lengthy journey, but he had to rely on much more than just his legs to cover the 40,409 square miles of the state of Kentucky.

"It took a lot of time, traveling and planning to complete my journey," Sutton admitted. "We have lots of 5K road races in Pulaski County each year. However, some counties have only a couple of 5K's each year and a lot of times they are scheduled on the same day as another county's 5K race. And in some cases, there is not a 5K race in that county."

Sutton soon found out that Owsley County and Fulton County did not offer 5K road races. So, Sutton had to be creative in completing his mission in those particular locales.

"Sometimes, I could look back at old races in some counties and contact the race director from those past races," Sutton stated. "I would tell them what I was trying to accomplish, and in most cases, they would organize a 5K race just for me."

"But in those two counties, no road races were scheduled and the only thing I knew to do was call on the high school's local cross country coaches to see if they could help me out in some way," Sutton laughed. "In both counties, the local cross country programs were gracious enough to organize a race for me to complete in."

In Fulton County, three high school cross country teams and Sutton competed in a 5K race.

"In that race, it was just me and a bunch of high school kids," Sutton laughed. "Each 5K was unique. Some were large and well organized, some were small with just a handful of participants, and some were put together on the spur of the moment just for my benefit."

The logistics of finding and competing in road races was also a major challenge for Sutton. Besides having to endure a 10-hour round trip to and from Fulton County, Sutton has had to run as many as five races in one single weekend - one race on Friday, two on Saturday and one on Sunday. After having major surgery done on his leg in 2015, Sutton competed in a local two-mile race with the aid of crutches.

Over his five-year journey, Sutton has logged nearly 36,000 miles driving to every parts of the state. He has spent thousands of dollars of his own money for travel and expenses. And he now owns nearly 400 race T-shirts to show for it all.

And while Sutton does like the competitive aspect of competing in 5K races, he is now more drawn to the social aspect of running in races.

"It has been so great going to parts of Kentucky I have never seen before and meeting new people," Sutton stated. "Not to mention, almost all 5K road races are to raise money for some organization, charity or someone in need. It is always special when I get to be a part of a 5K event that is put on by friends and family who are trying to help out someone with special medical needs."

Whether Sutton was running with a small pack of high school cross country runners in Fulton County or with in a large group of 500 runners in the local Chamber of Commerce Shamrock Shuffle 5K, everyone knew when Duffy Sutton was in the race.

"In 2012, my boys dared me to dress like Santa Clause in a Holiday race," Sutton recalled. "So, I dressed in red and wore a long white beard for the race. A few weeks later, I dressed up as 'Father Time 'for a New Years 5K race."

And from then one, Sutton dressed up in different costumes for each race he competed in. So much so, Sutton now has six large totes of costumes to chose from.

"I never wear the same thing to any race, but I always dress up as some kind of character," Sutton admitted. "I guess that first time I dressed up as Santa Clause, someone came up to tell me they were having a bad day until they saw me and I made them laugh. So now, I take joy in the fact that if maybe I can make just one person smile by what I am wearing, then it is all worth it."

Sutton admitted dressing up in costumes can sometimes be challenging.

"It is not about me winning races, although I have won four 5Ks races in events with small turnouts," Sutton chuckled. "Dressing up for races doesn't always benefit my performances. I wore a costume in Hazard when it was 103 degrees, and one in E-town when it was 7 below zero."

But perhaps Sutton's most challenging costume was during the local Lake Cumberland Half & 10K, where dressed as Uncle Sam and carried two large 3'x5' flags the entire 6.2 miles of the race.

"I come from a family of law enforcement, I retired from law enforcement, and my two sons are in law enforcement," Sutton stated. "The Lake Cumberland 10K was on the 20-year anniversary of 9/11, and I wanted to do something special to honor law enforcement and first responders."

But Sutton's plans to compete in the local 10K race - as Uncle Sam - almost came to a halt four days prior.

"The Wednesday before that race was my birthday and my mom called me up to sing 'Happy Birthday' like she did every other year," Sutton stated. "Three hours after that phone call, my mom passed away. That was very hard difficult week and running in a road race was the last thing on my mind. But after a lot of praying and the encouragement of a couple of special friends, I decided that maybe running in the race might be good for me."

Dressed as a 'red white & blue' Uncle Sam and carrying two large flags for the entirety of the 6.2-mile race, Duffy Sutton had a special picture attached to his colorful top hat. It was the last picture ever made of Duffy Sutton and his mom - Barbara Sutton. The picture had been taken after Sutton competed in a race in his mom's hometown in Frankfort.

STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Sports Editor and can be reached at sports@somerset-kentucky.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.

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