The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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January 1, 2014

SLIDE SHOW: Record number of runners join Chilly 5K Challenge

JOPLIN, Mo. — Ruth Taylor wasn’t going to let a few Braxton Hicks contractions deter her from finishing a five-kilometer race Wednesday.

“I’m 26 days away from my due date, and I could only make it halfway up a hill before having a contraction,” said Taylor, of Neosho. “I’ve done a race every month since I got pregnant, and this is the last one before baby No. 2.”

Taylor was one of 468 runners who kicked off 2014 with the five-kilometer (3.1-mile) run through south Joplin as part of the Chilly 5K Challenge, an annual fundraiser for the Joplin Family YMCA. The New Year’s Day race featured a new course that began and ended at the south Y branch on West McIntosh Circle Drive. Many runners said the course was challenging because of the hills.

Despite its name, the race wasn’t as chilly this year as it has been in years past. Although a cold front with snow was threatening to move in later Wednesday, temperatures reached into the mid-40s at the start of the run and neared 50 degrees by the time the race drew to a close.

Jim Hardy, of Webb City, decided to join his 13-year-old son, Nathan, in their first 5K.

“I figured it was something we could do together,” Hardy said. “Not that we’ll be running together today, though. He’ll be way ahead of me.”

Hardy, who is new to running, said that on previous New Year’s Day holidays, he would have been at work. Not so on Wednesday, when he put his endurance and running skills to the test after having completed the 12-week Run for God course conducted over the past few months by local running enthusiasts.

“I think it will be better, starting off the new year doing something like this,” he said.

The Chilly Challenge marked the second 5K for Britney Asbell, of Joplin, who also just finished the Run for God training program alongside more than 100 other new runners. Like many, she found the course more difficult than she had expected.

“They should have called it the Hilly 5K,” she joked.

Asbell said she has noticed several health benefits of having started running regularly. Most notably, she said, she now finds it easier to keep up with her two young boys. She hasn’t yet registered for another race in 2014, but she expects she’ll find one before too much longer.

“It’s becoming a new addiction for me; at least it’s a good addiction,” she said. “It feels great. I suggest (to) anyone who’s thinking about it to just do it. Crossing the finish line is the best feeling in the world.”

David and Mary Twarog, of Girard, Kan., have been running for years and have participated in the Chilly Challenge since its inception four years ago.

“It’s a great way to start the new year,” David Twarog said.

Mary Twarog said she was fighting the remnants of an illness, but she didn’t want to miss the run. She said the somewhat hilly course affected her slower-than-normal finishing time.

“We’re from Southeast Kansas, where there are no hills,” she said. “It was hard, but it was fun.”

Lori Jones, associate executive director of the Joplin Family Y, said a record number of runners participated in this year’s race, with more than 100 registering Wednesday morning.

She acknowledged the difficulty some runners had with the course, and said the Joplin Family Y staff would survey participants for their feedback and adjust the course next year, if needed.

Proceeds from the event will go to the “Strong Y, Strong Community” campaign, which last year awarded $100,000 locally in financial aid to Y memberships and programs, Jones said.

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