Runners young and old were on the move last weekend to ensure that many Orange seniors might stay put.
Nearly a hundred runners on the University of North Carolina campus braved wet, raw elements Saturday morning to take part in the 10th annual Aging in Stride 5K Run/Walk.
Traversing the slick sidewalks and streets in impressive fashion was overall winner Shan Guo (19:05), followed by second-place finisher Bobby Huynh (22:32) and third-place runner Ben Geib (22:46).
“It wasn’t that bad,” said Guo, who took the pace out through the damp, 44-degree conditions and led from the start, “but I just wanted to get it over with.”
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“Yeah, it was a little slippery,” Huynh said, “but there weren’t any really sharp turns. The only problem was that I took a wrong turn and had to retrace my steps.”
Finishing first among the females was Alley Meyer (24:35), smiling as bright as sunshine on an otherwise grey morning. Meyer was followed by Susan Chesser (25:36) in second place. Lisa Tarantino (25:46) rounded out the top three women’s places.
For Meyer, it wasn’t the cold and damp that was the challenge, but the hilly terrain.
“I knew when I went downhill (through the Gimghoul neighborhood), it would be tough coming back up,” she said. “I’ve done a couple other 5Ks on campus that went through that neighborhood, so I knew (the uphill) was coming.”
Tarantino agreed: “It was good, but it was a little hilly in parts.”
Fouth-place finisher Jenny Eller (26:35) used the course through quiet neighborhoods to enjoy the autumnal scenery.
“The course was great,” she said. “It was through all of the best parts of Chapel Hill and the Gimghoul neighborhood with all of the fall colors.”
“When I woke up this morning and saw the weather, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I really want to do this,’” Meyer admitted. “But the hardest part was getting out of bed. Once the course went up the first hill though, it got pretty warm.”
“The leaves were a little slippery, and the whole time I was thinking how the race is benefiting the Department on Aging, and how you want to prevent falls,” Eller said, laughing, “but here we were running on slippery leaves.”
Proceeds from the Aging in Stride 5K Run/Walk, organized by the Carolina Association of Pharmacy Students, go to the Orange County “Aging in Place Fund.”
The fund “offers resources to help older adults live independently, safely, and comfortably in their homes and communities,” according to the Orange County Department of Aging. Examples include a Volunteer Friend to Friend program, telephone reassurance calls, home safety assessments, a menu of in-home helpers, medical alert systems, and a resource guide.”
Members of the Carolina Association of Pharmacy Students, from the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, organize the annual 5K as part of Project AGE.
“Project AGE ... is Advanced Geriatric Education, focusing on geriatric health,” said Cynthia Lee, who co-directed the race alongside fellow third-year pharmacy student Dana Billock.”
Organizers were pleased with the turnout, especially given the weather.
“We didn’t have as many sign-ups as we wanted last year,” Billock said. “This year we were happy to have over 100 runners registered, but not all of them showed up with the bad weather.”
“Our goal was 100 this year, and, registered, we had around 110-ish,” Lee said.
Organizers were particularly pleased to see that a good number of race participants were seniors themselves.
“We gear this toward families and older adults,” Billock said, “and we’ve seen a lot of older adults come out. We’ve had people in their eighties run.”
“I’ve already run nine (road races) this year, and this was to be my last one, so I was looking for a good one,” said Sam Keel, 71, who runs three days a week and participates in physical therapy another three days weekly. “I thought this was a great one, because I’m getting older, other folks are getting older, and running this might benefit someone. Running has certainly benefitted me.”
For Bob Lazar, 67, and his wife Linda Lazar, 67, of Birmingham, Ala., the race simply fit into their vacation plans.
“Our son works here,” Bob Lazar said, “and we’re visiting our grandson. We’re going to spend a couple hours with our grandson and then drive back to Birmingham tomorrow.”
The couple was undaunted by the elements.
“We did this one a couple years ago in the pouring rain,” Bob Lazar said.
“If we did that one, we can certainly do this one,” Linda Lazar said.
Meyer used the 5K to tune up for a half-marathon in Richmond, Va. in two weeks.
“I usually don’t run these for time,” she said, “but, getting close to my race day, I was like, ‘Alright, I might as well.’”
Project AGE next plans to bring healthcare directly to seniors.
“We’re planning a health fair in the spring where we’ll go to one of the senior centers or a senior community where a lot of seniors reside,” Lee said. “We may do an interdisciplinary event with medical students.”
The race website noted that those unable to attend the race but wishing to make a contribution to the Aging in Place Fund may do so with a check made out to the Carolina Association of Pharmacy Students or CAPS, mailed to Project AGE, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, 109 Beard Hall, Campus Box 7566, Chapel Hill, NC, 27599-7566.