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Ralph Heath went for a harmless 2-mile run on Monday night and wasn’t prepared for the feeling that would accompany its completion.

The 60-year-old La Crosse resident doesn’t run as much as he used to after opting to concentrate on cycling instead.

“It felt more like I ran 10 (miles),” Heath said. “It’s odd because you know you’re in shape, but not running shape.

“When you haven’t run regularly, it hurts when you do run.”

Heath said he’s been experimenting more with running again and plans to run the 5K in today’s 

La Crosse Chileda Classic.

Heath, a managing partner in Synergy Leadership Group, is a former regular at the event, but he’s skipped the last couple after committing to cycling.

Heath is an Ironman veteran (the last coming in 1997), and he decided to change his focus from running to cycling in the summer months.

“In March, I’ve been hanging up the running shoes,” Heath said.

But those shoes are back on his feet, and he said he has been running approximately five miles every other week to complement his cycling training.

It isn’t much, but it manages to keep  him involved.

Heath’s return to the LCC also coincides with recognition from Chileda in the form of the Jim Gokey Model Citizen Award.

“The characteristics we look for fall into the category of someone who has been a big supporter of the races and the running community,” LCC race director Mark Thorn said. “With Ralph, we think this is long overdue for someone who has really contributed a lot.”

Gokey, a lawyer who was very involved with the local running scene until he passed away in 1998, is actually the link to getting both Heath and Thorn involved with the race.

Heath’s friendship with Gokey had him on board with the race when it began more than 30 years ago, and Heath managed to pique Thorn’s interest. Thorn has been part of the event for the last 15 years.

“It’s particularly meaningful to me because I knew Jim,” Heath said of the award, “I’m humbled by it.”

That could be why he’s building this particular 5K into his summer. 

Heath said he competes in anywhere from 10 to 20 cycling events per year, most of them in the Madison area or near the Twin Cities.

“It’s a strategic adventure and more of a chess match,” Heath said of cycling. “That appeals to me.”

Running still appeals to Heath, too, and that’s why he’s excited about a return to something that was once  part of his regular summer schedule.






WHEN: Today

WHERE: Downtown La Crosse, ending in Riverside Park

RACES: 10K (starts at 7:30 a.m. at Second and Pearl, in front of the La Crosse Center); 5K (starts at 7:50 a.m. at Second and State, in front of Ross Furniture); Kids’ race (starts at 10 a.m. at the entrance of Riverside Park).

2010 OVERALL CHAMPIONS: Men 10K—Mathew Chesang, Eau Claire, Wis., 30:04.8; Women 10K—Valerie Hubbard, Kenosha, Wis., 36:12.5; Men 5K—Moses  Waweru, Sun Prairie, Wis., 14:09.3; Women 5K—Grace Kimani, Coon Rapids, Minn., 17:17.3.

REGISTRATION: There is no race-day registration.

COMMUNITY STAPLE: This is the 32nd Classic since Don Heidel, former president/CEO of the Chileda Foundation, started the event in 1980.


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