Run, rock and de-stress from Irma

Orlando Sentinel - - LOCAL & STATE - By Gabrielle Rus­son

It had been a long week for those who had no power or tired arms from rak­ing de­bris or stress headaches af­ter Hur­ri­cane Irma.

Staci Za­vat­taro was in need of a run.

So were about 1,700 oth­ers in Cas­sel­berry early Satur­day for the Florida Hos­pi­tal Bat­tle of the Bands 5K.

They ran on res­i­den­tial streets that were still in­ter­mit­tently marked with fallen limbs and leaves from Hur­ri­cane Irma’s wrath.

Up a hill af­ter mile two, many gawked at a large tree that fell on a 1988 Oldsmo­bile in a drive­way. “Look!” a man blurted out. “Oh, my God,” said the woman next to him.

The car’s owner, June Juar­isti, was used to the star­ing.

About 300 peo­ple, she fig­ured, have driven by since the storm, then abruptly stopped and backed up to take a pic­ture.

Now as the run­ners strode by, Juar­isti sat in a chair in her garage, im­pressed by their speed. The tree blocked her di­rect view, so she saw only their legs hur­ry­ing past.

Juar­isti, who has lived in the house for 30 years and runs her own house­clean­ing busi­ness, was thank­ful she was safe. The Oldsmo­bile, which wouldn’t start be­fore the storm, was only a pos­ses­sion, not her main ve­hi­cle.

“We were lucky,” said Juar­isti, 62.

She de­cided to wait to re­move the tree un­til af­ter the race so it wouldn’t af­fect the route.

At least the im­pres­sive sight — a tree crunch­ing the trunk of her car — gave the run­ners some­thing to marvel at as they la­bored up the hill, she fig­ured.

Sev­eral 5K par­tic­i­pants said they were re­lieved the race wasn’t can­celed.

“This race kept your mind off Irma,” said Beth Jeck, 57, a Kis­sim­mee res­i­dent who works in mer­chan­dis­ing at SeaWorld. “I’ve been wait­ing for this all week.”

Many run­ners still found a way to ex­er­cise.

A run­ner for al­most half her life, Jeck ran on the tread­mill at the ho­tel she evac­u­ated to dur­ing the storm.

A Track Shack of­fi­cial marathon train­ing pro­gram was can­celed Sept. 9, but more than 100 peo­ple showed up any­way to in­for­mally squeeze in one last run to­gether be­fore the storm hit. Some were full of adren­a­line, push­ing a fast pace to get back be­fore the weather turned bad.

But by Tues­day, Cas­sel­berry of­fi­cials promised Satur­day’s race would still be on at Lake Con­cord Park. The roads were mostly clear.

“The city just came to­gether,” said Cas­sel­berry Mayor Char­lene Glancy, whose own house was one of the last in the city to fi­nally get elec­tric­ity back Fri­day night. “We feel very blessed.”

Still, race or­ga­niz­ers dealt with sev­eral chal­lenges.

Track Shack, the pop­u­lar Or­lando run­ning store that spon­sored the race, was closed un­til Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon be­cause it was with­out power.

The race ad­ver­tised “Live bands play­ing on the route! Beer at the af­ter-party!”

So or­ga­niz­ers scram­bled to find gen­er­a­tors to power the mu­sic and ice to keep the beer cold. They found a place to buy ice and sent a truck to pick it up at 4:30 a.m. Satur­day, about three hours be­fore the race be­gan.

For Za­vat­taro, it felt good to be back to run­ning as life was re­turn­ing to nor­mal.

“I don’t think peo­ple re­ally have had a mo­ment to process how stress­ful the sit­u­a­tion was,” said Za­vat­taro, 34, an as­so­ciate pub­lic administration pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Cen­tral Florida.

Run­ning was stress-re­liever.

At Satur­day’s race, she ran to feel happy, so she wore a yel­low tutu, dan­gly ear­rings, sun­glasses and match­ing fish­net gloves — an homage to her fa­vorite 80s mu­sic.

“I’m a tur­tle. I’m slow as heck,” she said. “But I don’t care. I’m here. I’m hav­ing fun.” the per­fect

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