Henrico County VA
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10k fun begins

At 40,000 participants and still growing, it's no wonder that the homegrown Ukrop's' Monument Avenue 10k has moved into the national spotlight – even earning a USA Today ranking among the top 10 races in the country.

But as several of the event's biggest fans emphasized at a Jan. 4 kick-off celebration, the 10k is much more than just a race – or even just a single event.

When you consider all the preparations that go into the weeks leading up to the March 31 race – the training team workouts, registration rallies, fundraising promotions, costume-designing and party-stop planning – it's clear that the 10k is months in the making, with aspects of party, charitable benefit, self-improvement regimen and music festival combining to provide an ongoing celebration.

It's also clear that having fun reins supreme.

Among the 10k fans at the kick-off event at Maggiano's, for instance, were Becca Hankins and her group of uninhibited friends, who have participated in the Richmond Times-Dispatch Dress Up & Run Contest for the past three years. Their costume entries have included stints as the Pac Man Group, the RVA Curling team, and most recently, as a team of paddlers wearing cardboard kayaks and pretending to stroke their way down the course.

Among other fans were four staff members from lululemon Athletica, the Short Pump Town Center athletic wear retailer and yoga boutique.

At last year's 10k, the women drew smiles from spectators and runners alike with their entry in the Spirit Contest, which challenges groups of spectators to cheer on participants in the most energetic, enthusiastic and entertaining way possible.

As former Washington, D.C., attorney Carolyn Manning said at the Maggiano's event, dressing in tacky costumes and waving silly signs [see photo above] came naturally to members of the lululemon staff, who see their store as more of a resource center than a retail outlet. Offering regular free yoga classes and a running club, the store has legions of loyal fans – one of whom called recently on an business trip to Richmond.

Jordan Marotta, a former college field hockey coach, quoted the caller as saying, "I'm in town for a conference. Where can I do yoga?"

The fact that the woman called her local lululemon store instead of consulting her hotel concierge, said Marotta, speaks volumes about the following that lululemon has achieved – offbeat name and all.

"We're like the e. e. cummings of athletic wear," said Manning of the uncapitalized lululemon name, which originated in part from an Asian tradition that the letter L brings good luck.

Talking trash
For Holman Middle School teacher Justin Brittle, the 10k provides an opportunity to have some fun interaction with his students in ways that can't be accomplished in the math classroom.

"I teach because I enjoy kids," says Brittle, who led Holman to a second place finish in the middle school category of the 10k Healthy School Challenge. "I'm not teaching because I'm a mathematician."

From 2008 to 2010, Brittle coordinated the Healthy School Challenge (in which schools compete based on the percentage of total enrollment that participates in the 10k) at Short Pump Middle School. Under Brittle, SPMS consistently finished near the top of the middle school division; but after Brittle moved to Holman, his new school edged out his former school for second place in the very first year it was open.

The competition between schools, however, is not nearly as important to Brittle as seeing the students challenge themselves personally.

"Some of them start off [saying], "I can't run six miles,'" he says. "It's a good distance, because it's somewhat challenging, but doable. And they can be proud of themselves for doing it."

What's more, says Brittle, the 10k challenge is a good community builder within the school; he enjoys drumming up interest in registering and seeing the students' reactions to his announcements and email updates.

"I almost harass a lot of people," he said with a laugh, noting that about 20 teachers run in the race in addition to students. "I'll say, '[We have] 30 signed, [we have] 50 signed up. The kids start talking about it. As soon as they're registered, they can't wait to tell me."

Some students, he added with a smile, enjoy challenging him in return.

"They say they're going to beat me [in the race]," said Brittle. "They talk a little bit of trash."

Sights and sounds
Once a school reaches 50 registrants, racers are eligible for customized t-shirts that bear the school name – a step up from the generic 10k t-shirt. Brittle also sends a paper running shoe to every student who registers, which can be decorated as the child wishes and added to a banner at the school. He makes sure to slip a few educational tidbits into his email updates as well, from nutrition tips in the early weeks to 10k etiquette lessons as the race approaches.

"I remind them," he said of the students, "that they're representing our school."

One of his favorite things about coordinating the 10k, Brittle pointed out, is that he gets to meet other members of his students' families. "I might not have taught their brother or sister, or they weren't in my class, but they come to the 10k."

Another bonus is the prize money garnered by both Short Pump and Holman for placing near the top in the Healthy School Challenge competition. One year at Short Pump M.S., Brittle was able to use the $400 to buy a disc golf set for the physical education department.

But the real prize money goes to the Massey Cancer Center, which has reaped thousands from the 10k's Massey Challenge over the years. Kaity Kasper, whose Hodgkin's disease has been in remission for nine years now, was among the Massey representatives to tell her story at the preview event at Maggiano's. After years of treatment at Massey Cancer Center, she now serves on the board and runs the 10k, and at press time had already raised $1,280 toward this year's Challenge goal of $500,000.

So on March 31, as runners and walkers make their way down Monument Avenue amid historic statues, towering old trees, and classic Southern homes, some spectators will surely come for the festive atmosphere. Some will come to cheer on their favorite Holman student or teacher or yellow-shirted Massey runner. Some will come to see if this year's amusing signs from the lululemon Spirit Group will top last year's, or if Becca Hankins' Dress Up and Run group can
top last year's clever kayaks.

But whether spectators come to play cheerleader or simply to enjoy the live bands and party stops, one thing is for certain: there will be no shortage of sights, of inspiration, or of entertainment at Richmond's biggest block party.

Registration forms for the 10k and the Virginia 529 Kids Run are available at http://www.sportsbackers.org Entr.y forms are also available at all Martin's locations and YMCA branches.


Community

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

Agencies combine on new entry point to Chickahominy


Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.

The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Take in a show at several locations this weekend! West End Comedy will provide laughs at HATTheatre; the production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” will close Sunday; and the youth theatre company CharacterWorks will present “Footloose” at The Steward School. Another show perfect for the kids – “Despicable Me 2” is playing at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center tonight. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Is there an Echo in here?

‘Earth to Echo’ aims to become this generation’s ‘ET’
It’s no secret that all found-footage genre movies are the same. Grab a couple of characters, give one of them a camera, and expose them to something supernatural that’s content to lurk just off-screen until the last five minutes. Everything else will just fall into place.

But that formula isn’t particularly family friendly, if only because that thing waiting a few feet to the left of the cast is usually plotting their violent doom.

That’s what sets Earth to Echo apart from the pack. It, too, follows a group of characters armed with a camera and a tendency to encounter unknown life forms. But all those familiar parts have been rearranged just enough to make it suitable for a much younger audience. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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The Henrico Concert Band will perform at 7 p.m. at Dorey Park, 2999 Darbytown Rd. Bring a blanket or lawn chair and spend a casual evening by the lake. Admission… Full text

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