Run great way to start year

Sunday, December 31, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:40 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

Most people start their New Year’s resolutions on Jan. 1. The Columbia track club will start a day early.

The club is managing the First Night 5K Run/Walk again this year. The race will be held 4 p.m. on New Year’s eve as the first event of the First Night Activities and is open to runners of all ages and ability levels.

Linda LaFontaine, Columbia Track club president, said this would be a great way to get a head start on the new year. Competitors “like to kick off those New Year’s resolutions with a healthy activity,” she said.

LaFontaine called three miles a “good distance” and said the race will be less competitive than most of the club’s races, even offering door prizes that all registrants can win. Nevertheless, LaFontaine said “there will be some really competitive runners there.”

“We like to encourage runners and walkers of all ages and abilities to participate,” she said. “This race is less competitive than most as only the first male and female runners win an award.”

LaFontaine encourages families and friends to do the event together.

“Get someone to do the event with and motivate each other,” she said. “Running or walking, it’s very healthy and a great way to start a commitment to exercise. The main thing is just to get out there and do it.”

LaFontaine has been running for years. In high school in 1968, before Title IX, she placed fourth at state as a sprinter on a team that she described as “school-sanctioned but not a whole lot.”

Her team had no coach and held its own practices. They even had to contact other schools themselves to find competitions to attend. Then they had to get their own transportation to the events.

Now a middle distance runner, LaFontaine takes full advantage of all that the Columbia track club offers for the community of Columbia.

LaFontaine will be participating, as well as “happily managing” the First Night race.

Another Columbia track club member, Steve Stonecipher-Fisher, owner of Tryathletics, also encourages people to participate.

“Everybody should be active,” Stonecipher-Fisher said.

Whether running or walking, “You ought to have fun as well,” he added.

Stonecipher-Fisher began running in high school in 1971 and continues to run competitively today, though he will be out of town for the race this time.

Stonecipher-Fisher ran for both the track and cross country teams at MU and still holds the MU three-mile indoor record, set in 1978.

He took fifth in the 1983 Boston Marathon with a 2:15:36, qualifying him the Olympics trial in 1984 where he placed 40th with a time of 2:22.

LaFontaine said that the race is usually a large event, attracting around 350 competitors, 75 percent of those usually choosing the 5K run.

For those not sure of their holiday plans, the race will allow same day registration. Registration can be picked up Cyclextreme, located at 19 S. Sixth St, between 2:00 and 3:45 p.m. on race day.

The only setback is that those registering between now and race time have already missed the deadline to get the race t-shirt on New Year’s eve. The rest of the shirts can’t be picked up until after January 15.

The course, starting at Flat Branch Park, will take participants through part of campus and downtown and will end at Cyclextreme. $20 covers the long sleeve shirt and an admission pass for the rest of the First Night activities.

For those who will be out of town or for those who don’t feel physically prepared for the run or walk, the club’s schedule lists 24 more races during 2007, all in Columbia.

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