Saturday, April 13, 2013

Season's First 5K - Healthier You Challenge, Valdez, AK

35 degree temperatures, gusty winds, and nine foot snow banks would not typically suggest that the spring/summer racing season was about to commence.  Yet, approximately 45 locals showed up this morning in exactly these conditions to run their first 5K of the year:  the Healthier You 5K.
12' snow banks are not normally harbingers
of the springtime running season.  (Photo by Matt Kinney).

Since the middle of January, Valdezans have been participating in a community wellness initiative dubbed “Healthier You”.  This program started several years ago and was immediately popular.  Over 300 people signed up the first year and consecutive year participation has been similarly high.  At the program’s center is a mission of encouraging people to lose weight, eat right, exercise, and stop smoking.  Healthier You gets its real traction, though, by appealing to the competitive, game playing side of all us humans – for every pound lost, hour exercised, and day without a cigarette participants get points that can lead to prizes.  Individuals and teams vie for the most points earned.  The prizes aren’t small, either – they’re valuable enough and cool enough to draw the interest of many.  This year, members of the winning teams received gifts plus $50 REI certificates.  Other prizes throughout the year included sports equipment, gift cards, and fitness books and kits.  At the 2013 finale today that followed the 5K, a lucky person won a brand new mountain bike!

Over the course of the winter, HY organizers, supporters, and sponsoring agencies put on ski clinics and snowshoe hikes and cooking demonstrations and personal health workshops.  They scheduled biometrics testing, balancing classes, training sessions, and swim meets.

A friend of mine conceived of an interesting idea a few weeks ago.  Inspired by what she was seeing among co-workers and friends and fellow HY team members, she imagined Valdez becoming a fitness destination.  Valdez possesses a prime natural environment for outdoor activities like kayaking, hiking, and skiing and quality fitness facilities like a swimming pool, groomed cross-country ski trails, a set of nice hiking trails, and a new building that is shaping up to be a beautiful gym at the college (should be finished soon!).  With those resources as a base and the burgeoning positive attitudes about healthy living within our community, my friend reasoned that visitors could easily become infected with Valdez Fever.

Brilliant white mountains blasted by sun
are a Valdez April hallmark.  (Photo by Matt Kinney).
This morning, I found her vision easy to buy in to while I was running down Hazelet Street in a pack of exuberant Valdezans – brilliantly clad in multiple layers, wool caps, gloves, and fleece tights, bracing against a chilling headwind, and celebrating this bizarre season we all love – that period between winter and spring where the days are impossibly long and the sun reverberates off the pure white landscape.

No comments:

Post a Comment