Hawkins turns the big 4-0 on Sept. 11

By LAURA BROOKHART / Community Columnist

Michelle Hawkins celebrated her Big 4-0 birthday on Sept. 11 by walking 40 laps around the lake at Joe Tucker Park.

The first lap was dedicated to the memory of all the victims of 9/11. Some 40 friends dropped by in the course of the afternoon to walk with Michelle.

“I was trying to think of something a bit crazy for my birthday, but not like wearing a lampshade on my head or tearing out to Vegas. This idea hit me in the middle of the night.”

Michelle and Benny Hawkins, Elaine Knapp, and Jaimee Barrett with John Riley Hawkins in front prepare for the start of ‘Going Forty,’ Michelle’s birthday marathon celebration. (Contributed)

Sister Jaimee Barrett surprised Michelle by preparing silver star-topped cupcakes, bandanas customized for the day and flower bouquets, plus Michelle’s baby portrait that friends signed on the surrounding mat.

Friends also signed Michelle’s T-shirt, and each lap was ticked off in green marker around her shirt’s hem.

Michelle teaches kindergarten at First Baptist Church of Alabaster and is also a freelance photographer — as tenacious in her other interests as she is with her running.

The ‘Going Forty’ festivities also included a family photo collage and Michelle’s photos of colorful butterflies and dragonflies taken in her back yard. For each of the 365 days in 2010, Michelle fulfilled her goal of shooting and posting in a Photo-A-Day gallery.

Friend Peri Jones suggested that going to Krispy Kreme for 50 doughnuts would be her preference for the next big birthday.

In December, husband Benny Hawkins plans to participate in the Tough Mudder challenge in Tampa. He will join five younger coworkers running the 12-mile, 26-obstacle course that includes icy mud pits and burning hay bales. The finale takes each runner, soaked with water, through an electrical shock of 10,000 volts.

“The race is not about speed. It’s about teamwork and camaraderie and helping everyone on your team finish together.”

“I gotta do it now before I get any older; I guess I’m just crazy.” Benny said.

Michelle says his decision to participate in Tough Mudder made her also want to make a statement on her birthday. The Hawkins are both now doing extra cardio and weight training at Helena Snap Fitness.

Son, John Riley, age 9, seemed to see this 20-mile excursion as just another day with mom. The family also trained for the Mercedes Marathon where John Riley ran in the children’s lap.

A golden full moon was climbing the sky by the beginning of lap 38. After 5.5 total hours Michelle, with Benny at her side, finished the last lap at 7:30 p.m.

Laura Brookhart can be reached by email at labro16@yahoo.com.