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A 77 mile trek for the Special Olympics begins in Limestone County Thursday

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LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. – This weekend, some of the most talented and excited athletes will gather in Limestone County for the 2016 Special Olympics.

But before the games can begin, a group of dedicated citizens will lace up for a cross country trek.

The Special Olympics Awareness Run, or SOAR, is an event that only comes around once a year. "To do a great run like that is really a challenging and incredible thing to do," said Limestone County Special Education Teacher, Janet Williams.

The 19-hour journey began at East Limestone High School with a parade Thursday afternoon. Last year, 18 runners took on the challenge to SOAR through the county on a mission to spread awareness for the event.

"It's just, there is such an air of excitement every time you get to do something like that," shared Limestone County Special Education, Anna Tominack.

Runners go from high school to high school throughout the county. They run during all hours of the night taking shifts for various legs of the journey; running more than 70 miles in total.

"Through the night and going from place to place in the county, many people in neighborhoods along the way are cheering them on. And you know they get some honks," said Tominack.

This year, nearly 20 runners are at it again. And not only are they carrying a torch of hope to the opening ceremony at Athens High School, but they are also raising more than three thousand dollars in the process.

Each runner participating must raise at least $100. Those funds go back to track programs in the county.