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Get Fit Challenge gets local employees moving
Volunteers held up encouragements
Participants in the get Fit Stay Fit 5K Corporate Challenge get warmed up and stretched out prior to the start of Thursday evening’s run at Riverside Military Academy.

Instead of gathering at the company water-cooler for a post-work chat session, more than a thousand employees descended upon Riverside Military Academy on Thursday evening to get a little exercise.

Three miles worth to be exact.

For the fourth year in a row, dozens of area businesses participated in the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce's Get Fit Stay Fit Corporate Challenge.

The event consists of two, separate 5K races, one for runners and one for walkers.

The sea of bright-yellow team jerseys for OHL, a Gainesville-based logistics company, were hard to miss in the crowd gathered on the school's campus, where the challenge was held.

"We have 81 team members," said David Cocker, OHL vice president, after the race.

"This is our first year participating, but we are really into health and fitness at our office. We have a full gym, running trails and an active Weight Watchers group that meets weekly."

Compared to some businesses, Cocker's group may be ahead of the fitness curve. The goal of the annual race is to encourage businesses to create company-based wellness programs for employees.

"Hall County's Largest Office Party" at the end of the race course provides an opportunity for employees of different businesses to mix and mingle with each other and to unwind after the race. There was food, live music and of course lots of water to help the racers rehydrate.

"It's like the light at the end of the tunnel," said Rebecca Smith, who was a first-time participant.

"Three miles doesn't seem like a lot at first, but my legs started getting weak halfway through it."

In addition to the family and friends of the racers standing along the sidelines cheering their loved ones on, there were also volunteers spread through out the race holding encouraging signs with messages like "Keep Going" and "Almost There."

The hills and sometimes uneven terrain of the race course were enough to challenge even the most skilled runner, but others saw room for improvement.

"The uphills could've been steeper," Dr. Clayton Blehm of Gainesville Eye Associates, joked.

Dr. Mike Veach, also with the Gainesville eye group, has completed 30 5K races. He, too, had thoughts on how the course could be "improved."

"It was too easy," Veach said with a mischievous smile.

"They could've thrown in a few sets of stairs."