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Running from the pounds

Many use chamber’s 'Get Fit Stay Fit' initiative to get fellow workers into shape

POSTED: March 25, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Tom Reed/The Times

Michael McNeilly, left, and Joey Sebestyen, center, both with Crown Financial Ministries, along with Don Walsh from Northeast Georgia Medical Center, take a lunchtime run Friday as they train for the upcoming Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce "Get Fit Stay Fit" 5K, set for Thursday at Riverside Military Academy. Crown Financial and Northeast Georgia Medical Center will both have teams competing in the event.

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More than 1,500 people have been training for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s "Get Fit Stay Fit" 5K run/walk, scheduled for Thursday evening at Riverside Military Academy.

The event is part of the chamber’s initiative to promote wellness, both among local employers and in the general community.

"We have more than 100 teams signed up, ranging from five to 200 people, and we also have about 200 individuals registered," said Chamber spokeswoman Robyn Lynch.

She said about 300 people have taken advantage of the offer for a free eight-week membership at the Georgia Mountains YMCA. The memberships started in January and expire next week, giving people two months to get in shape.

Other participants have designed their own training programs. At some companies, teams of employees are getting together to walk or run during their lunch breaks or after work.

At Crown Financial Ministries, which employs about 100 people in its Gainesville office, about half the staff has signed up for the race.

"I just thought it would be fun for our company," said Michael McNeilly, director of family ministries at the firm.

A self-described fitness buff, he signed up to be Crown’s team leader for the race. He said the company has done various things to promote the event, including making an amusing video of employees in training.

"Several of us have run at lunch together or ridden bikes, or are just trying to stop eating the bad foods," McNeilly said.

Crown’s corporate leaders had already taken an interest in wellness even before the 5K opportunity came along.

"We started something called ‘The Biggest Loser,’ sort of like the TV show," McNeilly said, explaining that three departments had formed teams to see who could lose the most weight.

"So (the 5K) was good timing for us," he said. "People seem to be very excited about it."

Lynch said the race will take place "rain or shine, unless the weather is severe." It is open only to people who have already signed up; there is no registration on race day. Runners will start at 6 p.m. and the walkers will begin at 6:30 p.m.

She said after expenses have been deducted, proceeds from the entry fees will be divided and given to the Gainesville and Hall County parks departments.

"We’ve asked them to use the money for programs that promote health and wellness for children," Lynch said.



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