By Maria José Subiria
Residents from all over the Southern Crescent have gathered to pit themselves against the little-over-3-mile trail in Forest Park for the past 12 years -- and this year is expected to be no different.
The City of Forest Park Recreation and Leisure Services Department will hold its 13th annual, "Health and Fitness Day 5K Autumn Fun Run/Walk," on Saturday, at at Starr Park, located at 803 Forest Parkway.
"Basically, each year, this event is held to promote health, fitness, exercise, teamwork and having fun while you exercise," said Michael Morris, athletic coordinator for the city's recreation department.
Morris said participants will be given an aerobic warm-up, at 8:15 a.m., and the main event is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m.
"It [ the warm up] gives you a chance to know the runners, instead of being so impersonal," said Jonesboro resident, Amy Martin, who has been participating in the race since 2003.
Morris said interested participants are eligible to do so at a cost of $10 for senior citizens, $15 per person in advance, and $20 per person on the day of the race.
"It is a friendly kind of community run," he said. "I've been in other metro-area races, and it's the friendliest run I do. It is more supportive than competitive."
Chick-fil-A's Forest Park Dwarf House has been the event's main sponsor for the past four years, said Morris. Runners and walkers, who have registered in advance, will be able to pick up their long-sleeved T-shirts, race numbers and gift bags, Friday, Sept. 25, from 5 p.m., to 7 p.m., at the Forest Park Dwarf House, at 4959 Jonesboro Road, Forest Park. Participants can also retrieve their corresponding items on the day of the race.
"The runners always tell me how nice the course is, and how good of a job our recreation center does of putting on the race," Morris said. "That keeps us motivated."
He explained that the trail will begin at Starr Park. Racers will travel to Ash Street, and journey south to Pineridge Drive. From Pineridge Drive, they will travel east until they reach Phillips Drive. They will then travel north on Phillips Drive to South Avenue. Once on South Avenue, they will travel west until they reach Starr Park, their final destination.
"The Pineridge [Drive] hill is a killer," Martin said. "It gives me a real feeling of accomplishment to run up [the hill]."
McDonough resident, Diane Lewis, said she began participating in the event in about 1999, with co-workers and friends. She walked the trail. Since then, she has continued to walk on her own, two or three times a week. "It [the race] made us realize that we need to get busy, and get ourselves together," said the 52-year-old Lewis.
"It is a very organized race, [and] it is fun," she said. "The people are usually in a good mood. Each year, we like to improve on our time a little bit."
Morris, who has coordinated the event for the past 13 years, said the Forest Park Police Department will frequently run safety routes in their vehicles, throughout the trail.
Also, approximately 40 Forest Park High School students will volunteer by handing out water, guiding participants in the right direction, and handing out awards.
There will be first-place awards, for both males and females, in 13 age categories, Morris said.
Phil Schillinger, a manager of the Sara Lee plant in Forest Park, admits that he spends more time in Forest Park than he does at home in Carroll County. "I just like supporting here ... People seem to have a good time running together," said the 57-year-old Schillinger. "We've [Sara Lee] got 15 employees, and their families, participating this year."
Children, 9 and under, will also have an opportunity to exercise, during the "Kiddie Run," if enough children enroll, said Abbey Jones, program coordinator for the city's recreation and leisure services department. The mile-long children's track is located next to the stage at Starr Park, and the cost for children to participate will be $10, according to Jones.
Morris said vendors, such as the Clayton County Board of Health, the Foundation of Wellness Center, Southern Metro Chiropractic Center and Everest Institute, will be present. "They [particpants will] get positive reinforcement of public health ...They [will] get good information from the vendors that we have," he said.
For more details, contact the Morris at (404) 363-2908.