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Participants run to better lives

5K Championship
Jun. 15, 2013 @ 12:32 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Running has a way of changing people's lives for the better.

For Brad Deel, assistant professor of political science at the University of Charleston, a love of running couldn't have come at a better time.

"It's the only reason I finally kicked a 30-year long, two-pack-a-day addiction to cigarettes," Deel said. "Running lowers your blood pressure and your resting heart rate. It makes your heart stronger. Counterintuitively, it actually protects your knee and ankle joints from arthritis. It raises your resting metabolic rate. It reduces your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some kinds of cancer. It strengthens your bones, joints and muscles.

"I have young children and I can keep up with them. Psychologically, it improves your mood as you produce more endorphins. It helps you to deal with stress. It gives me time each day to be alone with my thoughts and be creative about work and family. About the only thing running hasn't done for me is help me keep my hair."

Deel began running in March 2007. He developed runner's knee and couldn't run for four months, but that didn't prevent him from losing focus. He began running full time in March 2008.

Five years and several races later, he is gearing up for The Herald-Dispatch West Virginia 5K Championship on Saturday, June 22 in downtown Huntington. Deel has participated in 17 5Ks, two 10Ks, two Dirty Dog 15K races, eight half marathons, five Charleston Distance Runs, three marathons and one 50K. He also ran 50 miles on his 50th birthday.

Deel said this is his first time running in the West Virginia 5K and said the level of competition is appealing.

"In a lot of 5Ks, I'll finish in the top five, and I'm not terribly fast with a personal record of 18:34," he said.

"I even won a race outright last year. If you look at last year's West Virginia 5K Championship results, my PR would put me in 43rd place. I'm hoping that this really fast field can drag me along to a new PR."

Deel's passion for running led him to participate in the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. He was away from the finish line area before the bombs exploded. Deel didn't know anything about the incident until his wife called to ask of he was OK.

"Will it shape which races I choose? No," he said. "The most dangerous thing I did that weekend was drive to and from the airport. Life is full of risks and you can't live it worrying about everything that might go wrong. I suppose you can exist that way but you're not living. I will go on living my life on my terms and let the chips fall where they may. I'd be there [again] because it was so much fun.

"Running in the Boston Marathon is an experience I wish every runner would have once in his or her career. More importantly, though, I refuse to let the bombers win. If we don't show up, they will win. If the spectators don't show up or are prohibited from being along the course, they will win."

Deel said his long-term goal is to be a runner for half of his life, although he started running at age 45.

"Honestly, running has transformed me. Five years ago, I was an obese chain smoker. If someone had told me five years ago that I might be capable, at age 50, of running 26.2 miles at a 6:51 pace, I'd have told them they were nuts. My first night running lasted half a mile and it took over six minutes.

"I recently turned 50 and had a colonoscopy per normal screening guidelines. During the prep, they asked me what medications I was taking and they seemed genuinely surprised that the answer was, 'none.' They simply aren't used to seeing a 50-year-old male who isn't taking any medication. That's sad but it speaks about the power of running to change us dramatically.

"I always encourage people to just get started. It doesn't matter how fast you are or how far you can run or how out of shape you are now. Just get started and stick with it. I see people all the time trying this diet or that diet and complaining that they can't lose the weight when all they really need to do is eat a bit less and exercise a bit more."

The Herald-Dispatch West Virginia 5K Championship will benefit United Way of the River Cities in an effort to help fund local efforts to help prevent childhood obesity. United Way of the River Cities will release a special Request for Proposals, and funding will target those outcomes that reduce risk factors for childhood obesity.

To register or get more information about The Herald-Dispatch West Virginia 5K Championship, visit www.WV5K.com. Also contact United Way of the River Cities at 304-523-8929 or liveunited@unitedwayrivercities.org or visit www.unitedwayrivercities.org.

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