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The beauty of the charity race

It's a morning where everything hurts. Well, not everything exactly, but that new functional strength training routine which didn't look like much has suddenly caused aches in my rear end and hamstrings. And generally speaking I'd rather just stay curled up in bed. I feel tired and old.

But then I think of 84-year old Lan Yin Tsai and her 150-mile bike ride, every year, for 26 years.

Yeah, a few minutes of yoga stretching will fix me right up.

The story from CNN made the rounds on one of the local cycling email lists. In September, Tsai participated in the annual City to Shore event in New Jersey, a fundraiser for the MS Society. She stands out not just because of her age or the fact that she is the last one to finish, but also, as the story notes, because she rides in the event like she does every day. She wears the clothes she usually bikes in -- a dress and high heels -- and rides her one-speed bike with the basket on the handlebars.

Charity events have grown in popularity and they range in all types of sports and competition levels. Most (if not all) triathlons associate with a particular charity, raising funds for a local organization. The majority of local 5Ks have charity tie-ins. Big-time events, like some Ironman races and major city marathons, reserve spots for charity participants. For some, the charity slot is the only way into the race. For others, it's the only reason to do the race.

But it doesn't have to be a marathon or Ironman. You don't have to become obsessive about training or raise thousands of dollars in order to enjoy the experience.

You don't even have to be competitive.

You just have to volunteer your time, be active, and find a cause and and an event to support.

Locally, there are charity walks (like the 5K Hospice Memorial Walk or the Relay for Life series by the American Cancer Society) and cycling events (the multi-distance Ride for Roswell, Tour de Cure for the American Diabetes Association and Bike MS for the MS Society).

My first organized athletic event as an adult was the Hospice Memorial Walk shortly after my grandmother passed away. It was an event that got me moving, a goal that had me exercising regularly and eating healthier in preparation.

Eight years later, I'm still participating in charity events, this year entering Carly's Crossing open water swim. Granted, part of my motivation was to sneak in some extra long-distance open water training, but the energy of the day, the stories around Gallagher Beach, are worth more in inspiration than the mile-long swim.

You can use the charity event to get off the couch and move toward a healthier life. You can use it to honor a loved one. You can use it to kick start your fitness routine or as a training day en route to a bigger athletic goal.

There are intensity levels and distances that accommodate age and fitness and individual goals. These are the events with no age group winners. No timing chips. No PRs.

These are events that solely celebrate movement. They celebrate health and live and love.

You do them not to win, but because you can.

"I always try to tell people, whatever you can do, keep doing it, keep doing it," Tsai said in the CNN story.

The hamstrings don't feel as tight this morning when considering that perspective.

--- Amy Moritz
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