HER Fit­ness

Di­rec­tor speaks on Spa Run­ning Fes­ti­val

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Contents - Story by Lorien E. Dahl, pho­tos sub­mit­ted and by Mara Kuhn and Richard Ras­mussen

Love at first step: Di­rec­tor speaks on Spa Run­ning Fes­ti­val

For the fourth year now, Cindy Baswell has taken lead of the Spa Run­ning Fes­ti­val in the po­si­tion of race di­rec­tor. Cou­pled with her prior years serv­ing on the fes­ti­val com­mit­tee, she has be­come a fount of both in­for­ma­tion and en­thu­si­asm.

This year will mark the 36th an­nual event, set for Nov. 18 in down­town Hot Springs. The four races in­clude a 5K, a 10K, a half marathon, and a chil­dren's race egun in 1982 by a group of lo­cal busi­ness pro­fes­sion­als who wanted to draw in tourists dur­ing the fall sea­son, the first race be­gan at Oak­lawn and fin­ished down­town. Now, each race be­gins on Con­ven­tion Boule­vard, then takes ath­letes ei­ther to Whit­ting­ton Park, or to­ward West Moun­tain.

The 5K wel­comes par­tic­i­pants of any fit­ness level, as both walk­ers and run­ners can reg­is­ter.

The Spa 10K is part of the Road Run­ners Club of Amer­ica Grand Prix Se­ries, and will be the next to last of the 20-race cir­cuit for 2017. This year, it has been se­lected as the South­ern Re­gional Cham­pi­onship Race, which cov­ers 11 states from Ken­tucky to Florida. Baswell said, “We're very hon­ored and ex­cited, and hope it will draw some of our run­ning friends from across the South­ern states.”

The Sum­mit² Chal­lenge half marathon was added in the fes­ti­val's more re­cent years as a way to draw in more par­tic­i­pants and to showcase the West Moun­tain route. Run­ners will climb to­ward the moun­tain road's peak twice, sur­rounded by nat­u­ral beauty and with lit­tle to dis­tract them from their own breath and sounds of shoe on pave­ment.

The Squirt Race is for chil­dren ages 2-10, and par­ents will be able to run or walk with their young­sters along Con­ven­tion Boule­vard. All rac­ers in this event will re­ceive both a com­mem­o­ra­tive medal and T-shirt.

The max­i­mum num­ber of par­tic­i­pants for the half marathon is 400, so early regis­tra­tion is rec­om­mended. The other races have no cap, so run­ners can sign up through the morn­ing of race day. Al­to­gether, around 1,400 peo­ple are ex­pected to be wear­ing rac­ing bibs that day.

Par­tic­i­pants from 22 states took part in 2016, and so far this year, res­i­dents from 11 states have com­mit­ted to one of the races. Baswell said, “Run­ning through a na­tional park is pretty spe­cial,” es­pe­cially at that time when au­tumn leaves are chang­ing.

Or­ga­niz­ers have upped the num­ber of perks this year in sev­eral ways. One is through the ad­di­tion of an expo, which will be open the day be­fore in The Hot Springs Ho­tel & Spa ban­quet room. Some 18 ven­dors will have booths with in­for­ma­tion and prod­ucts re­lated to all things run­ning. Another new thing will be fin­ish­ers medals for all par­tic­i­pants in the 10K. And the post-race area near the fin­ish line will have heartier foods, in­clud­ing soup, chili, pizza, fruit and cho­co­late milk, along with a beer tent.

But race day isn't the fes­ti­val's only of­fer­ing for those who want to in­crease their per­sonal level of fit­ness, as the 10week Pace for the Race C25K Train­ing Clinic be­gan Sept. 12. Thanks to spon­sor­ship by Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield, par­tic­i­pa­tion in the clinic is free. There will be both be­gin­ner and in­ter­me­di­ate lev­els for run­ners, and a walk­ing group. This “Couch to 5K” health ini­tia­tive will also have an ed­u­ca­tional com­po­nent each week. Regis­tra­tion will re­main open through Sept. 19.

Baswell started run­ning 11 years ago be­cause she wanted to do some­thing good for her­self be­fore age crept up. She got in­volved with the lo­cal Spa Pac­ers run­ning club, and said the ex­pe­ri­ence was love at first step. In the be­gin­ning, she couldn't even run a minute, but has since fin­ished marathons and said, “There's an ex­cite­ment you get know­ing what you've al­lowed your body to learn how to do.”

She deeply ap­pre­ci­ates be­ing around other run­ners, who she said are all pos­i­tive peo­ple and are there to cheer each other on. And she's wit­nessed peo­ple's gains in con­fi­dence made through run­ning spill over into other ar­eas of life. “It re­ally makes you feel good in so many dif­fer­ent ways.”

Pro­ceeds from the fes­ti­val will go to three or­ga­ni­za­tions — Friends of the Park, for help in ex­pand­ing the Green­way Trail, Teen Chal­lenge of Arkansas, as they sup­ply hours of as­sis­tance for the event, and the Spa Pac­ers, who award schol­ar­ships to ath­let­i­cally in­volved high school se­niors within Gar­land County.

Com­mu­nity mem­bers who don't wish to don a pair of run­ning shoes can get in­volved that Satur­day morn­ing by lin­ing the route, es­pe­cially along Broad­way, lead­ing to the fin­ish line.

Regis­tra­tion, race times and route in­for­ma­tion can be found on­line at http://www.sparun­ningfes­ti­val.com.

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2: Erika Set­zler of Con­way pushes to the fin­ish line to be the first woman to come in first for half marathon of the Spa City Run­ning Fes­ti­val in 2016. 1: Run­ners take off from the start­ing line for the 5K and 10K races in 2015.

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