Saturday, March 23, 2002

Heart Mini-Marathon celebrates living, not winning

By Ian Duthie
Enquirer contributor

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(M. Royer art)
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        In the 25 years of the Humana Heart Mini-Marathon, the inspiration that comes from everyone involved always has been treasured more than winning.

        Along with the Flying Pig Marathon and the Thanksgiving Day Race, the Mini-Marathon is one of the most prestigious races in Cincinnati, bringing together the area's top runners, many of whom use the event to train for spring marathons. But for some, winning is the last thing on their minds; instead, they use the race to reassure themselves their lives are back to normal.

        For Wendy Schoger, Sunday's race marks the seven-month anniversary of a stroke that left her paralyzed down her right side and unable to speak.

        “I was terrified,” Schoger said. “I was 40 years old and showed no risks for suffering a stroke. I remember that it did not hurt, like a heart attack where it is said to feel like an elephant sitting on you. I just didn't know what was happening to me, and I couldn't speak or move. I was so scared for my husband and two young children, because I couldn't communicate with them.”

        Now, Schoger's children willsee their mother run in her first Heart Mini-Marathon. Kris Schoger, Wendy's husband, also will compete in the race, and once both have crossed the finish line, they'll remember how far they have come since Kris rushed Wendy to the hospital.

        “My husband is the one who thought that I needed to run in this race,” said Wendy Schoger“It is a miracle that I am back to my old self, and this race has meant the world for people like me.” One man who will be with Schoger throughout the 15K race is Dr. Daniel Woo, who treated Schoger and whom she credits for her recovery.

        Race director John Lonneman said Schoger will be among an estimated 750 runners wearing red caps to signify a recovery from stroke or heart attack. These individuals are whom this event is really for.

        “A stroke is a scary thing, and this race lets those survivors show others that there is hope and what we are doing is working,” said Lori Fovel of the American Heart Association.

        The Heart Mini-Marathon has raised more than $10 million, and more than 200,000 individuals have participated.

        The event began in 1978 to raise money for cardiovascular research, promote healthy living and celebrate Cincinnati. It has grown from a 15K race that featured 3,500 runners and raised $16,000 to an event Lonneman estimates will draw up to 14,000 runners and raise about $750,000.

        The two-day event starts at 11a.m. today with all-day registration at the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center that includes free health assessments, special presentations and 50 booths. The Kids' Fun Run begins at noon.

        “When we began the race, it was like no other charity event,” said race creator Tim Schilling, who works for the AHA. “With corporate and community involvement, it has grown to the point that there is a race for anybody who wants to get involved, whether they are an avid runner or not.”


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