Time to celebrate joy of running for your good health

SHEPHERDSTOWN – I had the privilege to speak for the second straight year at the Boston Marathon Sports Medicine Conference hosted by the American Medical Athletic Association. Last year my topic was barefoot running, the hot topic of 2011.

This year I spoke on healthy aerobic development for life and the work of Arthur Lydiard, whose influence brought “jogging” to America in the 1960s. This took running from competitive sport to a fun daily habit of activity for the masses. My friend 1992 Olympic Bronze Medalist and 1984 Boston champ Lorraine Moller applied the historical perspective and I spoke on the modern application.

This was the 41st annual presentation of this meeting. Much of what we now know in the field of endurance medicine was first presented at this conference and guidelines for safety have been changed as a direct result.

Although the most immediate topic of interest was heat and hydration management in anticipation of record-setting warmth during the race (it was 77 degrees by 10 a.m. on April 16), a big theme coming out of the conference was how we engage youth in the vigorous life. One presenter shared data on what makes kids want to get outside and exercise. The No. 1 response: “My parents do it.”

A big goal of the AMAA is to recreate family focused fitness with a focus on youth. The AMAA is sponsoring a national Run a Mile Day on May 12. Our community will take part as we invite all children 10 and under to our free 1-mile fun run at the Harpers Ferry Half Marathon.

For children over 10, we will offer free entry to our 4-mile trail run/walk through the School House ridge Trails of Harpers Ferry National Park. What’s the catch? A free event? There is none, but we highly encourage the child to bring a parent to run or walk with them.

Why do we want the child and the highly influential parent out running? Because of changes in diet and lifestyle, kids are increasingly at risk for diseases that can significantly diminish the quality, productivity and length of their lives:

• In West Virginia, close to 40 percent of elementary schoolchildren are overweight or obese.

• An obese child has high odds to become an obese adult, and the odds rise to 80 percent for someone who is obese as a teen.

• Due to poor diet and lack of physical activity, Type 2 diabetes is expected to afflict more than one in three children born in 2000.

• Health-care expenses and productivity losses related to obesity problems cost Americans more than $100 billion annually.

• Obesity-related illnesses cause some 300,000 deaths a year. Inactivity and poor diet will soon overtake smoking as the leading cause of preventable death in the United States

A little about the course: Race committee member Lois Turco, who chairs the Two Rivers Heritage Partnership and is working to establish the region as a National Heritage Area, along with Harpers Ferry National Park Chief Historian Dennis Frye see this event as a way to introduce both visitors and the local community not to just the beauty, but to the history lessons they cover on the route.

Says Turco: “We wish for the runners and walkers to keep returning after the event to learn more about our region’s story.”

I run the course almost daily over lunch breaks at my job at Harpers Ferry Family Medicine. This is truly an event of historic proportions. Every time I run this route there is something new for the senses and something challenging. The Harpers Ferry Half Marathon will be challenging with a mix of road and trail and more than 1000 feet of elevation gain.

Some of the major historical sites covered in the event include John Brown’s Fort, The Armory of Virginius Island, Bolivar Heights, School House Ridge, and the pre-Civil War towns of Bolivar and Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

The 4-mile encompass the more gentle rolling grass hills of Harpers Ferry National Park School House Ridge. The 1-mile kids run will be a trail run at host River Riders.

The event will benefit two local non-profit organizations: Eastern Panhandle Indigo Children and its mission to improve the health and opportunities for children with autism and For Love of Children, which has a mission to facilitate healthy character development for youth and adults in a powerful outdoor classroom.

A special thanks to our key sponsors: Silver Lining, Bank of Charles Town, The Town’s Inn, River Riders, Panera Bread, Hypnocoffee, Pizza City, Mountain State Brewing Co. and West Virginia University Hospitals-East.

And now for a brief Boston Marathon post-race report: I used all the cooling strategies in the book to place 153rd and fourth in my age group in a starting field of more than 25,000. The goal was to stay happy, wet and comfortable and to arrive safely at the beer tent and not the medical tent, which treated more than 2,000 runners. Due to the conditions, race organizers offered a deferment to anyone who wanted to take a pass and run next year. More than 4,000 runners took the option.

Congrats also to local runners Jared Matlick, Diana Gorham and Missy Price for qualifying for Boston and running well in the heat. For more on the Boston and all topics healthy running, see www.naturalrunningcenter.com.

Want to go?

• The Harpers Ferry Half Marathon and related runs happen May 12 in Harpers Ferry. To register or get more information, go to www.harpersferryhalf.org or email Todd McKinney at tworiversheritage@gmail.com.

• Two races are free. Young people tackling either of them can register on race day or on site on May 11.

• Volunteers still are needed: Enter your information on the volunteer tab at www.harpersferryhalf.org or contact Laura Bergmann (fitnessfanatic247@yahoo.com) or Katie Nolan (knolan@floc.org). Volunteers get a free T-shirt and an invitation to the post-race party.

• Race headquarters is Two Rivers Treads Center for Natural Running and Walking in downtown Shepherdstown. For details, see www.tworiverstreads.com or call 304-876-1100.

• Start/finish and post race festivities will be at Harpers Ferry’s River Riders. To get there from Charles Town, take U.S. 340 to the flea market where you’ll see Millville Road. Go 3/10ths of 1 mile and make a sharp left turn onto Alstadts Hill Road to follow to 408 Alstadts Hill Road. For details, see www.riverriders.com or call 304-535-2663.

• Timing and start/finish line management will be by Precision Race, the company that assisted with the October Freedom’s Run in Shepherdstown.

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