Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007

Annual Kentlands 5K race revamps its route

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Chris Rossi⁄The Gazette
Seniors warm up for their walk in the Got FIT program on Saturday.
For the past two months, about 30 seniors have met on Saturdays to lace up their sneakers and pound the pavement as part of the inaugural Got FIT program, sponsored by the 14th annual Kentlands⁄Lakelands 5K Walk⁄Run.

They’ll be among the 1,000 runners and walkers who are expected to chart a new course Sept. 1 as the race for the first time forges a path between the two neighborhoods in east Gaithersburg.

When the race began in 1993, the Lakelands was still under construction, so only one-third of the previous route wove through the neighborhood, said Bridget Ryder, manager of the nonprofit Kentlands Community Foundation, a race co-sponsor. The race is also sponsored by the Kentlands Community Association and the City of Gaithersburg, along with several businesses.

‘‘Now [the area is] fully built-out and we really want to get not only equal representation between the two communities, but also to do a course that allows participants to see many of those civic buildings in our communities,” such as Lakelands Park Middle School and Shaare Torah, a new synagogue, she said.

Other additions to the race this year include live performances by seven local bands at locations along the route, and the introduction of the 12-week Got FIT — Feet In Training — program aimed at prepping those older than 60 for the race.

Through Got FIT, which began June 30, seniors meet at Elite Performance and Physical Therapy in the Kentlands for hour-long sessions of warm-ups, a group walk discussions on nutrition and self-defense.

Sessions include warm-ups, a group walk and health-related instructions, such as classes on nutrition and self-defense, said fitness specialist and program coordinator Janet Witkowski.

‘‘The whole team approach gets the seniors together,” she said. ‘‘More than anything, it’s a wonderful social activity for them.”

Jean and Ed Mitchell, 60 and 61 years old, of Gaithersburg, agreed, and also praised the program for inspiring more healthy lifestyles.

‘‘Though we categorize ourselves as seniors, it helps everybody to think, ‘I can do it.’ This isn’t just for the 20-year-olds and the teenbops,” said Jean Mitchell. ‘‘I can do this and it’s a reinforcement and I think it’s just delightful.”

The new route also means a fresh start for course records, Ryder said. The winner will have their entry fee — up to $30 — paid back, she said.

The event is the Foundation’s largest fundraiser.

The nonprofit, which sponsors entertainment and outreach programs, has donated nearly $50,000 in the last five years to the Dolores C. Swoyer Scholarship Fund.

The scholarship provides money for needy children to attend the City of Gaithersburg’s summer camps.

For some of the Got FIT members participating, like Kentlands resident Glynn Fox, winning the race isn’t as important as the motivation he’s received to adjust his diet and keep active.

‘‘There are some ladies in this Got FIT group who out walk me easily. I’m not noted for speed,” Fox said with a laugh