Saturday, March 24, 2001

Heart Mini-Marathon evolves into weekend of cardiac fitness

By Ryan Waldheger
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        John Lonneman insists he is just one of many, nothing special. He volunteers at the American Heart Association, is a survivor of quadruple-bypass surgery and Sunday will be serving as the race director of the Humana/ChoiceCare Heart Mini-Marathon for the fourth consecutive year.

        And Sunday, if just for a day, it will seem he is just one of many. Because when Lonneman arrives to help direct a full day of events, he will be surrounded by hundreds of volunteers and heart-condition survivors who will pepper the course, from Fountain Square downtown and along Columbia Parkway.

        An anticipated 12,000 participants will convene for the weekend's activities, which will raise more than $500,000 for the American Heart Association.

        And at the event's center is Lonneman, a lifelong runner and a volunteer with the AHA since 1985.

        Last May, after some back pain interrupted his jogging, Lonneman visited his doctor for a check-up. “I thought I was just getting old,” he said. With the exception of an occasional stop at Skyline, he thought he was leading a healthy lifestyle.

        But a stress test and an angiogram later, he awakened from a sedated state to startling news.

        “When they told me I needed a quadruple bypass, I thought I was still out,” Lonneman said. “I thought I was still dreaming.”

        Nearly a year later, Lonneman is healthy and still jogging. He is unable to run Sunday only because of his obligations as race director. Runners who have overcome heart ailments will be distinguished by red hats.

        “Red Caps are very very important,” Lonneman said. “They wear their badge of courage and are very brave individuals. That's what keeps us (volunteers) going.”

        One of those Red Caps, 11-year-old Ashley Dumford, will be running alongside her older sister Jessica when she makes her 5K debut Sunday.

        Born with an atrial septal defect that required open-heart surgery in 1995, Ashley completed the 2K last year and has been preparing for Sunday's race with weekend runs to the YMCA.

        Calling the races “exciting,” Ashley said she enjoys raising money for the American Heart Association. “It makes me feel pretty good.”

        Perhaps nobody personifies the courage that will flood the Fountain Square start and finish lines better than Greg Osterman.

        Once stricken simultaneously with heart transplant recovery and a bout with cancer, Osterman is preparing for his eighth consec utive Heart Mini-Marathon.

        “I never planned any of this,” he said. “I was working to get back into shape to do my job. Eventually, I reached a point where I felt so good and it seemed like I could motivate other transplant patients.”

        He since has completed four marathons. If he is able to complete Cincinnati's Flying Pig Marathon in May, he will become the world-record holder with five finishes as a heart transplant recipient.

        The Heart Mini-Marathon, now in it's 24th year, has prospered into an event that is filled with these types of stories. It still is anchored by a competitive 15K race but has grown into a two-day affair that includes today's fitness clinic and Sunday's full slate of runs and walks for all ages and abilities.

        It's today's clinic, greatly enhanced from last year's edition, that excites Lonneman, now a strong advocate of cardiovascular health screenings.

        “We're focusing on wellness,” he said. “We're going to have a myriad of medical people and a panel of well-known physicians.”

        Today from 11a.m. to 3:30p.m., the first floor of the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center will be transformed into a fitness clinic and will offer cholesterol testing, stroke assessments, EKGs and blood-sugar and blood-pressure screenings, all free to the public.


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