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ON THE SCENE: The Lake Placid Classic

Running for health, fun and community

October 13, 2017
By NAJ WIKOFF , Lake Placid News

The Lake Placid Classic Half Marathon and 10K is way more that getting out and winning a race.

It's really about checking out to see how you're doing, staying healthy and having fun. The roots go back to two guys, two lonely runners out there running day in and day out no matter the weather, Dr. Robert "Bob" Lopez, the local veterinarian, and John Chapple, who owned a liquor store across the street from the school.

People thought they were nuts. Doc Lopez was the more flamboyant salesman of the two, constantly trying to charm others to running with him or jumping through a hole in the ice on New Year's Day. John just ran. Yes, of course, people ran who were training to be Olympians or for various sporting events, such as the track and field events held on the oval. But Dr. Lopez and John ran for the fun and health of it.

Article Photos

Marc Galvin of Lake Placid grabs something to drink from one of the aid stations on state Route 73 during the Lake Placid Classic Half Marathon and 10K Saturday, Oct. 7.
(Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

I think of Rick Preston, lead organizer of the Classic. He just exudes health, energy and good spirits. He dashes here and there. There is an electricity about him that would do Doc Lopez proud. Then I think of his parents, grandparents, uncles - seeing Rick run about for the sheer joy of it would have amazed them. They did have a great sense of humor, a trait embedded in most of the Prestons, but running marathons for fun would have been beyond their imagination as was true of all our families. OK, when you are young in school, in sports sure. But as an adult, for fun? Who would guess?

The race was founded 46 years ago by Dr. Lopez and an informal group of runners, initially as a marathon that began at Paul Smith's College and ended in Lake Placid. The half marathon began in Saranac Lake. In 1983, the North Elba Park District took over the race, changing the course to being in and around Lake Placid and dropping the full marathon. In 2012, budget restrictions forced the Park District to forego its lead sponsorship, but local volunteers took over the management of the event. For the past several years, it has become the vital fundraisers for CYC, Connecting Youth and Community of Lake Placid and Wilmington. This year, more than 500 people entered the race, about 100 more than the year before.

The race started with Laura Sheft from Hot Yoga leading a deep breathing stretching exercise. Think Tai Chi on overdrive. That got rid of the chill, and people loosened up.

"We're using yoga to help them pull oxygen in that feeds their muscle tissue such as with the uplift followed by the forward fold which enables them to crunch out, breath out getting rid of toxins," said Sheft. "Yoga is very holistic. It helps your body get rid of things you no longer need such as negative energy, which is huge in this society because of the stress we carry. It's an excellent way to detox, de-stress, feel good about yourself, and eventually feel good about everything going on around you."

Less than a minute after she wrung every negative energy out of the crowd of 500, they were off heading up Main Street for a loop around Mirror Lake before heading over to School Street and then down to and out Sentinel Road

In the pack running her first half marathon and this race for the first time was Amy Smith from Potsdam, cheered on by her pals Hanna Smith (her twin sister) and Ellen Norton.

"I've wanted to run a half marathon, and this race sounded like fun," said Amy.

Also running in the 10K were a couple of guys closer to my age, Phil Martin and Willy Miller, coming from Nicholville and Moria.

"We been friends awhile," said Miller, a self-described old goat. "Running in this race was my idea. After 65, you are not responsible for what you get your friends into. I like running because you meet a lot of nice people, you see a lot of country, and it's healthy."

"I love the way it makes me feel after," said Martin.

After they all took off, I beetled down to the horse show grounds for the finish. Out at the entrance, the Lake Placid Central School Key Club and Builders Club were manning an aid station under the watchful eye of Patti McConvey, the school's library teaching assistant. By the time I parked my car and got over to their station, Lake Placid's Marc Galvin was coming down the stretch from the airport. The kids were ready holding out Gatorade and water, grapes and other energy boosts.

The Key Club signed up to clear out the traffic cones after the race, though many came early and helped out during the whole time, and the Builders Club to staff the aids stations. Both groups will receive $200 that they will use for the Lake Placid backpack program that provides backpacks and school books and supplies, and the ability take some food home.

Over at the finish, still more kids, many pulled in by CYC, were helping pass out food, drinks and ribbons, as it didn't take long for those running in the 10K to make it down to River Road and back completing their distance. CYC is about motivating kids to be healthy in mind, spirit, and body. Led by Miss Positive Tina Clark and chaired by a terrific example of a youth stepping into leadership if there ever was one, Lake Placid Elementary School third-grade teacher Jason Leon, CYC engages kids in a multitude of ways added an abetted by strong partnerships with the Lake Placid Central School, Shipman Youth Center, and a wide array of engaged individuals and agencies.

No less a key partner is Adirondack Health and its Fit For Life Program. One of their volunteers at the race was Jean Brennan.

"We help people learn how to move properly," said Brennan. "Let's say someone had an injury, and after the hospital, they may go to PT. We then help them learn how to get their body doing what they want it to do like running, hiking, boating, skiing; whatever is their desire and whatever it takes. You know as we get over," this said while giving me a sharp appraisal, "we sometimes keep doing the same things over and over and don't pay attention to the other parts. We help you get all the parts moving."

Over at the finish, Leigh Wingfield of Lake Placid won the men's 10K.

"I have a couple have marathons coming up later in October and November, so this was a good a hard training run. It wasn't going easy that's for sure. I love the training for a race. It's good for my body. I have arthritis. The more I run, the better I feel, the less I do, the worse it gets. The race is the fun part."

"Running is a wonderful stress reliever," said Susan Scofield, who won the women's 10K. "I run a couple of times a week when I can."



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