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Healthy Strides

Run With the Irish

Amy Siewert on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 10:00:00 am 
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Looking for a healthy way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? There are several races coming up in the Milwaukee area that will help you get your green on.

The Blarney Run/Walk takes place on Saturday, March 9, at the Wil-O-Way Center, Underwood Parkway in Wauwatosa at 11:30 a.m. The 5k race and 2.25-mile walk is a fundraiser for the Wauwatosa Historical Society.

Chip timing is an added bonus this year and the first 800 registered will receive a special commemorative long-sleeved T-shirt. Advanced registration is $22, race day registration is $25. Go to for more information or to register.

The following weekend head to Hartland for The Luck of the Irish Run on Saturday, March 16. The race is the sixth event in the Great Lakes Winter Run Series and starts at Lake Country Lutheran High School. The 1-mile Fitness Walk starts at 8:30 a.m., followed by the 5k at 9 a.m. and 10k or 15k at 9:45 a.m.

Registration fee is $25 up to 5 days before the event and increases to $30 five days prior to race day. Fore more information or to register, visit

Also on Saturday, March 16, is the Lucky Leprechaun 7k run/walk with the start and finish line near Leff’s Lucky Town in Wauwatosa. The race starts at 9 a.m. Before you head to the start line get decked out with some green beads and participate in the Irish-themed costume contest.

After feeling lucky that you finished the race, adults can enjoy a free green beer at the post-race activities. Proceeds from the event will benefit the MACC Fund. Registration is $35 for adults up to March 14 with the price jumping to $40 the day of the race or a packet pick-up on March 14. For more information or to register, visit


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Think Pink

Amy Siewert on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 
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October is always an emotional month for me. As a two-time breast cancer survivor, I am reminded of those life-changing experiences continuously for 31 days. We all know it’s breast cancer awareness month and it brings me great joy to see how many people are striving to fight for this disease.

A few weeks ago I ran in the Komen Race For a Cure with my son, Jake; his girlfriend, Lauren; and a few friends. It’s become a tradition for us as we salute the fight against this deadly disease. We’re normally a fairly competitive lot when it comes to races, but not on that Sunday. That day is all about running together at a pace comfortable for everyone in the group. As Jake said during the run this year, “This is really the definition of a Fun Run.”

What do you do during this month to show your support? If you can’t think of anything, here are a couple of ideas.

• Don’t feel like working out to show your support? Waldvogel’s Pumpkin Farm, an hour north of Milwaukee, is one of a handful of farmers in the Midwest that are participating in the “Pink Pumpkin Patch” program. For every pink pumpkin sold, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to breast cancer research. For more information, visit or call (920) 885-9590.

• Kohl’s Department Store is doing its part through the Kohl’s Cares Supporting Women’s Health program. Kohl’s is donating 100 percent of the net profit for items purchased in the Women’s Cause line. Visit the web site at or head to the nearest store and start shopping.

However you choose to help fight the cause is up to you. But take time this month and show your support.

I have several friends who are currently struggling with this disease and I know first-hand the difficult road they are walking. But I remind them that they are not alone. I will be by their side with a smile and reassuring grip of their hand.

It’s time to stand up and fight. Make it your mission for the month.

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‘You’re an Ironman!’

Amy Siewert on Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 1:30:00 pm 
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Yesterday 2,500 triathletes discovered what they were capable of when they took on the challenge of the Wisconsin Ironman Triathlon.

The sun was rising on a beautiful, but crisp morning over the waters of Lake Monona in Madison when they began their 2.4-mile swim. It’s an incredible sight to witness as the athletes begin in a mass swim start, all thinking of the finish line 140.6 miles away.

Dan Erschen of Pewaukee was one of those athletes, but for Erschen his challenge is even greater. Erschen has multiple sclerosis, but he crossed the finish line 16 hours, 17 minutes and 31 seconds later and proudly accepted his Ironman medal.

In recent years, triathlon has exploded in the sports world with many testing their athletic abilities at the sprint distance level. Triathlon consists of four different race distances, Sprint, Olympic, Half Ironman and Ironman. Many dream of adding the Ironman title to their fitness resume, but not everyone has the mind-set to take on the challenge. An Ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile run. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart.

Erschen’s drive as a man afflicted with a debilitating disease is a lesson to all of us about what we can accomplish. Procrastination is not in his vocabulary. Living life to the fullest is certainly his mantra.

I am fortunate to be a volunteer captain every year at this race, and I am lucky to be in a position where I interact with the athletes one-on-one. It’s an emotional roller coaster ride — one minute comforting an athlete who suffered an injury and has to the end their race, the next minute elated to see someone who was struggling in T2 break the tape at the finish line.

I was fortunate to run at Erschen’s side for a race last spring benefitting the MS Society. It was an honor and an inspiration as he shared his story with me along the way. He sets the pain aside he suffers through daily from his disease in order to participate in the sport he loves. He is a fine example of a true athlete and the definition of grace under pressure. His humility shines through every step of the way.

Congratulations Dan. You truly are an Ironman!

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Deaf Yoga

Amy Siewert on Monday, July 30, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 
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Trish Washburn of Oconomowoc found herself suddenly immersed in the deaf community after taking a job at her church. “I run the deaf ministry at Crosspoint Community Church. I knew nothing about the deaf and hard of hearing culture. It was a huge learning curve,” she says.

She took the American Sign Language class so she could communicate better. She says her group and the deaf community are “amazing” people.

An avid athlete and owner of Soleil Lune Yoga Center in Oconomowoc, Washburn began to ponder the question, “How do the deaf exercise?”

After extensive research and working with an interpreter, Washburn held her fist deaf yoga class in June. “I wanted to offer a class for just deaf and hard of hearing. I wanted to give them the skill set so they could go into any class and succeed,” Washburn says.

Her church group was excited about the idea, too. Four to five students attend regularly and are helping her to figure out the best method for teaching a class. “They are such a loving community and they are so patient with me,” Washburn says.

But Washburn wanted to do more, so she contacted Lila Lolling in Cincinnati, who began the DeafYoga Foundation in 2007. Lolling came to Wisconsin to certify Washburn and her staff in teaching deaf yoga — resulting in the Soleil Lune Yoga Center designated as the first deaf accessible yoga studio in the country with an entire staff certified in deaf yoga instruction. Washburn also works with a sign interpreter at every class.

Lolling began teaching deaf yoga in 2004, combining two of her passions — yoga and sign interpretation — in order to better service the deaf community.

“There was a lot of trial and error at the beginning,” laughs Lolling. “I thought I’m going to try my best and see what happens.” One major obstacle was the absence of certain Sanskrit words in American Sign Language. Sanskrit is an ancient language commonly used in yoga.

Undeterred, Lolling learned Bharatanatyam dance, a style of south Indian dance that uses hand movements, and thought she could incorporate some of the hand gestures into the new yoga sign language she was creating with the help of the deaf community and interpreters.

“I am actively working with deaf yogis around the United States to standardize an ASL yoga vocabulary,” she says.

One barrier deaf people encounter in a regular yoga class is not being able to close their eyes, which lessons the impact of the experience. During a deaf yoga class, participants watch the instructor for hand signals, but also close their eyes, knowing the instructor will lightly tap their shoulder, stamp their foot or wave a fan on them to alert them to open their eyes for further instruction. “There is a deeper sense of trust and relaxation for them,” says Lolling. “They also understand the benefits of each yoga pose and deeper appreciation of sense of breath.”

Lolling and Washburn also encourage hearing students to participate in a deaf yoga class.

There are more than 28 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the country, but less than 30 deaf yoga instructors, according to Lolling. “We expect deaf people to fit into our society and culture, why don’t we try to fit into theirs,” Lolling says.

It has been a moving experience for Washburn. “It’s really deepened my teaching skill set, relying on intuition and anticipating my students’ needs better,” Washburn says. “It’s easy to talk during yoga, but now I have to show them how I love it.”

For more information on deaf yoga, visit Soleil Lune Yoga Center’s websites at or or call (262) 206-1285. Lolling’s website is

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Olympian Sets a Healthy Example

Amy Siewert on Friday, June 29, 2012 at 3:40:00 pm 
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Boys & Girls Club members from Cass Street School presented Olympic triathlete and Boys & Girls Clubs volunteer Gwen Jorgensen with a good luck banner to take to this summer’s games in London.

It’s nice to see Olympic triathlete and Waukesha native Gwen Jorgensen take time out of her busy training schedule to inspire children to be healthy and have fun in the process.

This week, Jorgensen visited the Cass Street School Boys & Girls Club in Milwaukee where they made and exchanged gifts for her to take to London.
Jorgensen, who graced our January cover, is just as much the bright, smiling and generous person behind the scenes as she is portrayed in the media. Her grace and humility shine through and I think attributes to her natural ability as an elite athlete.

Jorgensen has been a volunteer at the Cass Street School Boys & Girls Club as a way to give back to her community. She has led bike rides and paddled canoes with the kids, all the while demonstrating how staying active can be a fun activity and doesn’t have to feel like work.

The Olympian is also one of 13 U.S. athletes who comprise Team Citi for Citi’s “Every Step of the Way” innovative digital program. To support the next generation of America’s athletes, Citi has made a $500,000 donation to the U.S. Olympic Committee to launch the program, which benefits future U.S. Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls and athletes of all ages in communities across America.

Jorgensen identified Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee and its Bicycle Recycling Program as inspiration for her journey to the Olympic Games. The “Every Step of the Way” program allows individuals to help direct points through every day social media activity to give the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee and other participating programs the resources they need to support the next generation of athletes on their journey from ambition to achievement. Check it out at

Being of service to others while striving to be our best is a wonderful combination which we should all strive for and Jorgensen is showing us how to get it done.
She will be representing the United States in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Make sure to tune in and cheer for our local hero.

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Walking For Water

Amy Siewert on Thursday, June 7, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 
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In this month’s issue we featured a story on Abe Clark, a charitable man on a mission who ran across America to raise money for Living Water International. On the heels of Clark’ ambitious journey, I learned of Andy Stenz, who is currently walking across Wisconsin for the same cause. During a turbulent year in our state, it’s refreshing to see people literally going the extra mile for the good of others.

Stenz, of Waukesha, is walking from water to water — i.e. the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan — on a 225-mile charitable journey. He is nearly half-way to reaching his goal of raising $50,000, which would provide a year’s worth of clean drinking water for 2,500 families.

He began his journey on May 28, with plans to complete his walk this week at McKinley Beach in Milwaukee. According to his daily blog, he is suffering from shin splints, swollen ankles, cracked lips, sunburn and heat rash. Yet, he pushes forward.

If you would like to donate toward the cause and read about his amazing journey, visit

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Remembering the True Meaning of Memorial Day

Amy Siewert on Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 
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As we get ready for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, it’s time to consider the true meaning of the day. The federal holiday was established to honor all the men and women who have died in all wars while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Sometimes that meaning gets lost, just like the veterans who return home after serving our country.

But not everyone has forgotten. Dryhootch of America is a nonprofit organization started in 2008 that dedicates itself to helping veterans and their families who survived the war, survive peace.

Milwaukee is fortunate to have two Dryhootch locations, with the second location opening last week directly across from the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center at 5000 W. National Ave., Milwaukee. The other Milwaukee location is at 1030 E. Brady St., Milwaukee. Efforts are underway to open a third Dryhootch in Waukesha.

Dryhootch  provides such services as peer-to-peer counseling to help with issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, drug and alcohol addition, family reintegration and women veterans’ issues.

The facilities also have a coffeehouse where veterans can gather with family and friends in an alcohol and drug-free environment.

A coalition of community partners has committed to working with Dryhootch to aid in addressing the many legal challenges for returning veterans.
It’s nice to see our community is taking an active role in helping those who have put their lives on the line for our country. Maybe it’s time for all of us say “thank you” by helping those in need.

For more information on Dryhootch of America, go to

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That Golden Glow

Amy Siewert on Friday, May 11, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 
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The season is here — swimsuit, sun and a lawn chair. There are still some of us that worship the sun — myself included — even though we have heard countless times how prolonged, unprotected sun exposure can lead to skin cancer. It’s finally sinking in.
I think seeing the New Jersey woman on TV last week accused of exposing her young daughter to the harmful rays of a tanning bed really hit home. She looked completely unnatural to me.
I heard the term Tanorexia for the first time when the media was discussing the incident and I wondered what that meant.
According to Wikipedia, the slang term Tanorexia is an addiction similar to smoking or alcohol — a little is never enough. People perceive themselves as unacceptably pale and therefore lay out in the sun or in a tanning bed frequently to have a darker complexion.
To verify that information, I spoke with Dr. John Ratz, a dermatologist with Great Lakes Dermatology, who has had sun worshipers among his patients. “There are people out there who can’t get enough tanning,” says Ratz. “All you can do is let them know the truth, but you may not change their minds.”
He hadn’t heard the term Tanorexia himself until last week, but did agree these people are addicted to getting a tan.
Don’t get me wrong, nobody likes to look like a shiny white beacon when they’re wearing shorts and a sleeveless top, but there are other ways to get tan. Check on your store shelf for self-tanning lotions.
Ratz notes to remember the sun screen; reapplying the lotion or spray every couple of hours is essential. He says statistics state that one in 75 people will get melanoma.
The natural sun-kissed glow is not worth it in the long run. Use those hours spent tanning in a more productive manner. Your skin will thank you for it.
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Striving For Inspiration

Amy Siewert on Friday, April 27, 2012 at 2:00:00 pm 
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News anchor Ted Perry from Fox 6 called me a few weeks ago. I was pleasantly surprised; Ted’s a nice guy and I was curious as to why he would call. I had run into him at the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer kickoff breakfast a month or so ago and I told him about the interesting year I was having.

He said on the phone he thought a lot about our conversation and wanted to do a story on me. I laughed and told him I didn’t think I was that interesting. He disagreed. I went through a second round of breast cancer last year and am currently training for the Madison Marathon.

He wanted to do a piece on a breast cancer survivor to kick off the big event taking place May 5 at Discovery World. The Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society and Fox 6 is a sponsor of the event.

I have to say it was a little unnerving sitting in the hot seat instead of being the one asking the questions. Tim, a photojournalist from Fox 6, came to one of my Herceptin treatments and pointed a camera at me while I was undergoing the intravenous treatment I do every three weeks.

Last week, Ted came to my house with Chris, another photojournalist, and interviewed me for an hour.

To round things off, they came back one Saturday morning and videotaped my son, Jake, his girlfriend, Lauren, and me on one of our training runs. Jake and Lauren are doing the marathon with me. We are celebrating their graduation from UW-Madison in May and me surviving cancer a second time.

It seemed like a lot of effort for a few minutes of air time, but they’re professionals and I’m sure it will come together nicely. I just hope I held up my end of the story for the viewers.

The segment is scheduled to air on Fox 6 during the 10 p.m. newscast on Thursday, May 3. For more information on the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, visit and go to the link on the home page.

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The New Super Food?

Amy Siewert on Monday, April 23, 2012 at 7:00:00 am 
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Recently, I was out on a long run with my friend, Hans Wegesser, when we discovered we each make our own organic energy bars. He was telling me about his “chia bars,” named after the chia seed he adds to his recipe.

I had never heard of chia seed, and was intrigued by this super food. We’ve all heard of the Chia Pet, advertised at Christmas time as the “fabulous” gift for all ages. The chia seed is what those lovable animals sprout all over their bodies. Who knew the seed was a great food source for endurance athletes?

Chia, say experts, has tremendous nutritional and medicinal properties. It is very rich in omega-3 fatty acids (more so than flax seeds), antioxidants, fiber and a slew of minerals.

The seed turns into a gel-like substance when soaked in water for a half an hour, suggesting this reaction takes place in your stomach and slows the time it takes carbohydrates to convert to sugar.

This fact is what makes it perfect for the endurance athlete. It curbs hunger and boosts energy. Hans eats his chia bars during ultra marathons and long runs — and swears by the positive effect it has on his running performance.

He certainly sparked my interest, as I am currently training for the Madison Marathon and am always eager to try anything that’s safe and will boost my energy levels.

So, I went to Health Hut and bought a bag this week. Now ... what to do with it?

I went to the Internet and discovered numerous ways you can eat these organic gems, including raw right out of your hand. They have a nut-like flavor and can be put into foods as seeds or ground.

Not into endurance racing? No worries: You can also eat the seeds as a dietary supplement, as Chia is touted for its ability to curb your appetite, and the nutritional value is great.

I’m excited to give it a try this weekend before my 18-mile run. I’ll let you know if it helped me to keep up with my 22-year-old son!

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Smart Bites

Amy Siewert on Tuesday, April 10, 2012 at 1:45:00 am 
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For some, science can be a bit hard to swallow.

Luckily, the new Science Cafés at the Milwaukee Public Market are taking some of the fear out of the daunting subject by hosting  modern scientific discussions in an informal atmosphere.

The free community series is sponsored by the Community Engagement Key Function of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute of Southeast Wisconsin, which is populated by local health care powerhouses the Medical College of Wisconsin, Marquette University, Milwaukee School of Engineering, UW-Milwaukee, the BloodCenter of Wisconsin, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Froedtert Hospital and the Clement J. Zablocki V.A. Medical Center.

Intrigued? Check the program for yourself on Monday, April 23, when Dr. Ken Schellhase, associate professor of family and community medicine and the associate director of the Center for Healthy Communities and Research, will lead a discussion on the uber-popular topic of health screenings. Or, on Tuesday, June 19, you’ll find a discussion on positive psychology led by Dr. Lisa Edwards, associate professor in Marquette University’s School of Education. Edwards will introduce participants to the positive psychology construct, in which mental health researchers study the health benefits of assets such as gratitude, forgiveness and hope, and how those assets may translate into disease management.

To register for one of the free Science Cafes, which are held from 6 to 7:45 p.m., visit or contact Shannon Opel at (414) 955-5754 or

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The Journey to the Start Line

Amy Siewert on Monday, April 2, 2012 at 3:00:00 pm 
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Left to Right: Emily Moore, Amy Siewert,
Jake Siewert and Lauren Kumbier after

crossing the finish line at the Get Lucky Half Marathon.



I’m currently training for the Madison Marathon with my son, Jake; his girlfriend, Lauren; and their friend, Emily. We are calling it our Celebration Race. The three of them are graduating from UW-Madison in May, and I recently finished chemo and multiple surgeries from my second round of breast cancer. Crossing the finish line will be sweet; training to reach the start line has been a challenge.

I needed a new pair of running shoes when I started this endeavour, and my friend Hans talked me into trying a pair of minimalist running shoes. A recent trend for avid runners, the shoes are virtually sans arch support following the theory that we have conditioned our feet over the years to rely on artificial support, rather than strengthening the muscles we were given.

No arch support? The prospect seemed scary, especially for me, who has run every mile for the past seven years using custom orthodics in my running shoes.

I went to Revolution Natural Running and Walking Center in Wauwatosa where they put me on a treadmill and had me run in my regular running shoes, and then run barefoot. They videotaped the experience so I could see my running patterns. I was surprised at the difference. I was heel striking in my shoes and mid striking barefoot.

I was told the experts discovered runners were prone to more injuries using the cushioned shoes do in part to an increase in heel striking rather than mid-foot striking. The minimalist shoes “force” a person to mid-strike more frequently, a more natural running pattern for our human form with less chance of injuries to the ankles, knees, hips and IT-bands.

To switch over, I had to start out slow, running a half mile, than a mile and increasing in half-mile increments. I discovered I had muscles in my feet and calves I never knew existed.

Jake bought a pair and, under advisement, went out and ran three miles immediately. He could barely walk for a week and has since put the shoes in his closet and won’t touch them until after the race.

I switch back and forth; run the short runs in the minimalist and the long runs in my trusty Adidas with orthodics. I’m not sure which I like better. I had to learn how to run all over again. It’s an interesting experiment, but the verdict is still out there for me. Maybe due in part that my body just hurts more as the mileage increases weekly.

So far it has been a wonderful (sometimes painful) journey, and one that I am glad to be sharing with Jake, Lauren and Emily. The four of us ran in the Get Lucky Half Marathon in Minneapolis on St. Patrick’s Day. I certainly felt lucky to be participating after the difficult journey I went through this past year.

Now our thoughts are focused on the start line at the Capitol on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Stay tuned as our adventure continues. If you are currently training for your own special race, hang in there. You are three times more capable of doing something than you think you are!

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Race to Erase MS

Amy Siewert on Friday, March 16, 2012 at 12:00:00 am 
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My son, Jake, is the race director for a new run taking place in Madison on April 14. To say I’m proud would be an understatement as he readies for the inaugural Race to Erase MS. He’s not only taking on the challenge during his final semester at UW-Madison, he’s taking an active role in the fight against multiple sclerosis, a disease that afflicts his father. It’s become a personal war for him.

He is on the board of the organization called Going for Ten Thousand (GF10k) that formed in January 2010 by UW student Becky Hall.

It started as Hall’s personal goal to raise $10,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society-Wisconsin Chapter’s annual MS150 Bike Tour. Today, GF10k is about fighting for the 10,000 people in Wisconsin fighting MS. To date, it has raised more than $40,000.

We can all learn something from these young men and women who are actively doing something to fight this debilitating illness.

So get off the couch, put on your running shoes and get ready to take part in the battle against MS by signing up for their 5k run. You can choose to participate in the April 14 race taking place at the UW Natatorium in Madison or the April 22 race taking place at Arrowhead High School in Hartland. Be a real warrior and do both!

The Race to Erase MS is open to runners and walkers of all ages and abilities. Refreshments and a T-shirt are included with registration fees. Prizes will be awarded to the top male and female in each race. For more information and to register go to

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