Johnstown Independent

Humidity fails to dampen spirits at Walking Classic

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A humid Sunday morning didn't stop 3,000 walkers from participating in the ninth annual New Albany Walking Classic on Sept. 8.

"It's a little too warm," organizer Phil Heit said while the walkers were still coming in.

This year's event included a half marathon (13.1 miles) and a 10K (6.2 miles) walks, along with a two-day health expo Sept. 6 and 7 at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts in New Albany.

The volunteer-run event is supported by sponsors, and all proceeds benefit the nonprofit Healthy New Albany organization.

The heat did not deter spectators and walkers from cheering others to the finish.

Debbie Ryle of Columbus continued to cheer walkers as she was walking to her car after finishing.

"Anybody who does 12 miles needs to be cheered on," she said.

Ryle, like many of the other participants, said she is interested in staying healthy and sets new goals for herself annually.

"We always walk five 5Ks," she said.

This year, Ryle and her friend, Lori Gillfillan of Upper Arlington, walked their first 15-minute mile.

Gillfillan said they started walking five years ago during a benefit for the Susan G. Komen foundation, which raises money for breast cancer research and programs.

"We like to do things for charity and we do it to get us healthy," Ryle said.

Josette and Dick Bodonyi retired and moved to New Albany. They said they participated in the walk for the first time this year as part of their wellness regime.

Josette Bodonyi said she wanted to do something after the recent bombing at the Boston Marathon.

"I can't run but I can do this," she said. "I believe in being healthy and I support health initiatives."

Dick Bodonyi joked that he wasn't so sure they could complete the Walking Classic.

"We finished, barely," he said.

Many participants said the New Albany Walking Classic is different than other local events because it is focused on walkers and features gourmet food for participants and live entertainment at the end.

"It's sensational," said Brenda Basnik of New Albany. "Every year, I'm impressed. The volunteers are so friendly on the course and the bands are wonderful."

Basnik said she has walked in the event the past seven years and was recruited by a daughter, Erin Hall, who also lives in New Albany.

Another daughter, Courtney Jolly of Worthington, also usually walks with her mother and sister.

"The food is great, the course is beautiful and the people are so nice," Basnik said.

Heit, who was a runner and turned to walking after hurting his knee in 2003, developed the idea for the New Albany Walking Classic.

A professor emeritus of physical activity and educational services at Ohio State University, Heit formed the New Albany Walking Club, and the club helped organize the first race in 2005.

Karen Edwards of New Albany is a member of the New Albany Walking Club who organized volunteers for the expo and participated in the walk.

"I coordinate the volunteers for the expo, which takes about 100 volunteers," she said.

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