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Let’s run a little faster

David Yon, Revised September 2, 2018

On Saturday, September 8, runners and walkers will line up on Bragg Drive in front of the Jake Gaither Community Center for the 37th Annual 5K Run-Walk for Support for those Enduring Sickle Cell Anemia.  I hope you will be part of the group. This is your special invitation to come run with us. The Tim Simpkins One Mile Fun Run begins at 8:00 and the 5K Run-Walk begins at 8:30 a.m. The race is a GWTC Race and a 2018 GWTC grand prix event.  Paul Guyas and Jeff Rollins are the codirectors of the race.

The race will be sporting a new lightning fast, 5K course.   While the old course was fast, the new course will be even faster and will also be safer and easier to manage as a busy stretch along Orange Avenue will be replaced by a run down the St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail and a busy stretch on North Ridge Road will be replaced by a calm street named Notre Dame Street that has very little traffic.  The runners will travel in a loop via a clockwise direction, opposite of the direction they historically have run.   The start and finish of the race will remain on Bragg Drive in front of Gaither Recreation Center.  Hills have been banned from the course.

Chris Wells will be there helping and watching anxiously. Chris is anxious because, in addition to wanting to see everything go well, this is one of the largest fund raisers for the Sickle Cell Foundation, Inc.  Chris is the Client Program Director for the Foundation and he knows firsthand about the people in the community with the disease who need help. The Foundation was formed in 1980 and it is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.  Its mission statement is described on the Foundation’s website as follows:

As with so many nonprofits today, there is a greater need for resources than there are resources available for distribution. Like so many others these days, the Sickle Cell Foundation has looked to road racing to help fill in the gaps. In fact, 37 years ago they were a pioneer at it. The race is now an “official” Gulf Winds Track Club race.  That allows Chris and others, such as Foundation Executive Director Velma Stevens,  at the Foundation to focus on their jobs and worry less about the logistics of putting on a race.

Regardless of all the benefits of the new course, it is always sad to lose one that has been around for as long as the old course.  The race moved around for its first few years, but I think it has been on last year’s course for around 30 years. I found results from 1997 where I ran a pretty good race and I am sure that was not the first or fastest I have run on that course.  The finish of the old course twisted through a neighborhood before a right-hand turn onto Tanner Drive (which becomes Bragg Drive) where once you passed Gaither Recreation Center, it was a kicker’s dream – flat and fast.  Runners with the best kick just try to hang on through the twisting neighborhood until they can see that finish line, while those without that finishing speed used the turns and curves to push ahead, building a big enough lead to avoid getting caught before the finish line or stressing the competition enough to sap away the strength to power a kick.   The new course however will start revealing its secrets this Saturday.

Sickle cell anemia or Sickle cell disease is an inherited form of anemia. The Mayo Clinic describes it as “a condition in which there aren't enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen throughout your body.” Normally, red blood cells are flexible and round, moving easily through a person’s blood vessels. The Mayo Clinic description however points out that: “In sickle cell anemia, the red blood cells become rigid and sticky and are shaped like sickles or crescent moons. These irregularly shaped cells can get stuck in small blood vessels, which can slow or block blood flow and oxygen to parts of the body.” Sickle cells are also rigid and break apart easily leaving someone anemic.  In addition to excess fatigue, side effects include episodes of pain, increased risk of strokes and heart attacks, painful swelling of hands and feet and frequent infections. There is no cure for most people with sickle cell anemia, but treatments can relieve pain and help prevent problems associated with the disease.  And, you won’t be surprised to hear me say that a good exercise program will help as well.

Of course, there will be no personal best on September 8 for me, but I am ready to get after it on a fast course after competing in the GWTC Summer Trail Series and in the Miller Landing Madness 8K race – all tough, hilly races.  For those ready to run fast, the Sickle Cell 5K is a great opportunity to do so.  And for those wanting to see the harmful impact of sickle cell disease go the way of the big hills, this is a great opportunity as well. You do not have to run fast.  There will be a lot of walkers.  Run or walk, here is to helping to get rid of a bad disease as fast as possible and to taking care of those who suffer from it in the meantime as best we can do.  Here is to Flat and Fast at www.fastestraceintown.com.