Saturday, March 29, 2003

Mini-Marathon expects 12,000

Race weekend puts spring in their steps

By Shannon Russell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

United States senator George Voinovich and his wife, Janet, will be among participants in the 26th annual Humana Heart Mini-Marathon weekend festivities, which promote fitness and fund raising for heart disease and stroke research.

About 12,000 people are expected to be downtown today and Sunday to exercise and support the American Heart Association's pledge for better health.

• Fitness Clinic, Millennium Hotel (corner of Fifth and Elm streets) - 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m., featuring free cholesterol screening, fitness tests, exhibits and a free Kids' Fun Run (at noon, for children 7 and younger).
  Races begin at Fountain Square:
• 9 a.m. - 5K Heart run
• 10 a.m. - 15K Humana Heart Mini-Marathon
• Noon - 5K and 10K HeartWalk
• 12:30 p.m. - Kids' Heart Mini-Marafun
INFORMATION or call the American Heart Association at 281-4048.
The Voinoviches will be grand marshals of Sunday's HeartWalks, but events begin Saturday with a Fitness Clinic at the downtown Millennium Hotel. From 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m., the clinic will feature free cholesterol screenings, stroke assessments and a noon Fun Run for kids 7 and younger.

Sunday's races start with the 5K HeartRun at 9 a.m. The 15K Mini-Marathon is at 10 a.m., followed by the 5K and 10K HeartWalks at noon and the 2K Kids' Mini-MaraFun for runners 12 and younger at 12:30 p.m. Races begin at Fountain Square and extend to Columbia Parkway, with a 15K turnaround at Delta Avenue.

Senator Voinovich will address HeartWalkers at about 11:45 a.m. before walking the course with his wife. A longtime sufferer of hypertension, Voinovich learned to control his health after reading American Heart Association pamphlets. Since 1982, he has logged 20,000 miles on a stationary bike - including 1,600 miles this year - to stay fit.

"The change in lifestyle has been terrific," Voinovich said. "It caused me to realize that I can take my condition into my own hands."

Children who have survived heart disease or stroke will be joining Voinovich in the HeartWalk and will be wearing red caps.

The senator also will be walking on behalf of his sister-in-law, Pat Voinovich, a heart attack survivor.

Lori Fovel, American Heart Association communications manager, said last year's event brought in more than $750,000 for research. More than 10,000 walkers and runners have pre-registered for this year's races, and Fovel anticipates up to 2,000 walk-ups Sunday.

Last year John Sence won his fourth straight men's 15K Mini-Marathon in 46:53, and Jill Tranter won her third consecutive women's 15K in 57:05.

But this year the men's race is wide open. Sence will be competing today at the USA Track & Field 10-Mile Championship in Louisville, and won't be running in Sunday's Mini-Marathon.

The Championship is the nation's fourth-largest 10-mile run, and Sence said it's the first time the race has been held near Cincinnati. The 33-year-old, who's in his final year of competitive running, is aiming for one last shot at the men's marathon trials for the 2004 Olympics.

"It's always fun running in my hometown, so I'll definitely miss (the Mini-Marathon). I know when I'm down in Louisville I'll be asking myself why I did it," Sence said. "I'll definitely be back next year but probably in jogging mode."

Henry Dennis, last year's 15K men's third-place winner, said he and second-place winner T.J. Lentz are also competing today in Louisville and won't be running Sunday. But they "plan to come watch," Dennis said.

Tranter is hoping for a four-peat in the women's race. But she said she hasn't been able to train as often as she'd like this year because of hectic work and family schedules.

"I've been fitting running in whenever I can. If I run 40 to 45 miles a week, I'm happy," Tranter said.

Some runners and walkers have spent the last eight weeks getting ready for the Mini-Marathon in the Running Spot's training program. Store owner Bob Roncker said 63 people - from novices to seasoned marathoners - met twice a week. Roncker has been holding the seminars off and on for the last 20 years.

The American Heart Association will present new Bob Roncker Awards to the first 18-and-under male and female finishers in the 5K and 15K races.

Roncker, who is recovering from pneumonia, will be walking the 10K with his wife, Mary Ann. He said the Heart Mini-Marathon is one of the best times to break free of winter blahs.

"It's is a harbinger of spring. When it takes place, we know the good weather is here," Roncker said.

Interested runners and walkers can register at Saturday's Millennium Hotel events or at 7 a.m. Sunday. Cost is $35 for every event but the kids' 2K, which is $25.


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