BBQ, Books and Runners: The Publix Run for Reading 5K

With celebrity cooks Rashad Jones and Jose Juarez teaming up to produce a delicious meal for the Publix Run for Reading 5K, crowds can expect a colorful event with hundreds of runners (some might even be in costume), lots of spectators and the opportunity to support the United Way of Marion County. Tuscawilla Park just north of downtown Ocala will host this seventh race of the Big Hammock Race Series, which starts at 8:30 am on Saturday, January 11th. Spectators and participants will be able to purchase a barbecue plate courtesy of Jones’ Big Lee’s Serious About BBQ and Juarez’s BarbaCuban’s 455 Sauce.

Jones, of Big Lee’s Serious About BBQ food truck located in southeast Ocala, thinks this collaboration is “extremely special. To have two small-town guys have similar success with national TV appearances and success with our foods” is something this enthusiastic and positive barbecue expert is excited about. “With our history and the dish—the meat, the marinade—people will get a really special meal.”

“The Run for Reading 5K is presented by our top corporate supporter, Publix Supermarkets,” says Jessica Nisbett of the United Way of Marion County. “We are so honored and thrilled to have these two award-winning, local cooks supporting this event in such a unique way. They are both extremely passionate about literacy and wanting to support our local youth, and have decided to team up to create an unforgettable, one-time-only menu for this event.”

Tickets for the special meal are presale only and can be purchased at

The money raised from the race will go to the United Way of Marion County’s ReadingPals, a literacy program that uses volunteers to help Marion County kindergarten students develop reading and comprehension skills.

Nesbitt is looking forward to both the food and seeing the runners who are encouraged to come dressed as their favorite literary character.

“Since this event is all about literacy, I’m excited to see the creative costumes from our runners, hopefully representing books that allowed them to fall in love with reading in their youth!” she said. “We are all excited at United Way to also taste some delicious barbecue that will be created by two award-winning local cooks in support of ReadingPals.”

In addition to the Publix Run for Reading 5K, Jones and Juarez will also be teaming up for the Ocala Culinary Festival taking place March 25th to 29th.

“We have some new and exciting events like a night featuring Argentinean cuisine,” Juarez, the creator of BarbaCuban’s 455 sauce, promises. “Also Rashad and I will join back together to do a grill clinic with grill tips and great food. We’re keeping to a small group setting so tickets are limited.”

Jones thinks this is a great time in Ocala and its burgeoning foodie scene. The Culinary Festival brings people together, he says. “Great food brings in people from all walks of life and gives them exposure to new things, new tastes. It’s something to celebrate.”

Juarez is also looking forward to the Run for Reading race.

“Rashad and I both have the passion for food and outdoor cooking,” he says. “We both are invested in and love this community and I am sure that I can speak for both of us when I say that we both feel so blessed by our town. In turn, we want to turn out best for Ocala. I think that you will find that our collaborated meal will knock your socks off.”

So bring your socks, your running shoes and your appetite to race day.

To purchase your race day ticket visit

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