On a cold and rainy Oct. 20 morning, runners gathered in the parking lot behind Knights Pizza to run a 5k marathon that would ultimately help veterans.

“The marathon was started because we really wanted to help provide a dog for a veteran that has PTSD,” Sarah McNany, President of the Moutain Empire Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America, said. “It’s very expensive to get a dog trained.”

(Photograph by Madison Taylor / East Tennessean)

(Photograph by Madison Taylor / East Tennessean)

The Run for Dogs marathon, which is 3 miles long, has seen participation steadily grow since it began three years ago.

“The first year we had 27,” McNany said. “Last year it was 50 some, and this year it’s going over 60 even in this weather.”

The money raised from the 5K goes to the Puppies Behind Bars program.

“They’re actually out of New York,” McNany said. “They actually get their puppies, and they train them within the prison system there. It kind of is a plus for the prisoner who gets to work with the dog. It builds longevity and good trust with the dog.”

Participants came despite the rainy weather to help raise money for the cause.

“My husband is part of the group, and he’s kind of working with Sarah to get it all set up for the run,” participant Cindie Tipton said. “We try to do runs as often as we can, and this is a good one to support.”

Carla Antenucci is a psychology resident at the VA, who decided to run because of what the event was going toward.

“I run like everyday, so I thought, ‘Why not come and do this?'” Antenucci said. “I just tell myself not to stop and that’s the best I can do.”

Planning the marathon did not come without challenges.

“The real challenge is sponsorship and marketing,” Mark Tipton, vice president of the Mountain Empire Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America said. “Because there are so many races out there and we have so few people working this race – that’s the real challenge, getting enough manpower, enough marketing and enough sponsors.”

Even with the challenges, Run for Dogs went on to help raise money for a good cause, which benefits a veteran in the long run.

“Last year we had a veteran come speak that actually had his dog,” McNany said. “He’s a student here at ETSU, and he was in Iraq and Afghanistan. He came back, and he had some real PTSD issues. He said if it weren’t for his dog he probably wouldn’t be alive, but he definitely wouldn’t be in school. And so he’s able to come out in public and go on with his life and try to continue in a good way.”