Although Wendy Wolf regularly runs three to four times a week, Saturday’s inaugural World Heart Day 5K at Fred Cone Park in Gainesville held a special meaning for her.
"My stepsister has had quadruple bypass surgery because of heart problems," the 58-year-old said, calling the memory an emotional one.
She ran for her stepsister as one of 47 runners who registered to participate in the event held in recognition of World Heart Day.
While World Heart Day is celebrated Tuesday, Alachua County participated in the Florida Department of Health’s statewide World Heart Day 5K on Saturday to bring attention to heart disease, strokes and preventative measures. Gainesville joined 66 other counties, said Kourtney Oliver, the program coordinator for the FDOH’s Healthiest Weight Florida initiative in Alachua County.
"Most of the risk factors associated with heart disease and strokes are preventable," Oliver said, and added that changes in lifestyle — including reducing tobacco use, maintaining a healthy diet and participating in physical activities — are some of the key ways people can prevent heart issues.
Because the World Heart Day 5K included free registration, the focus of the event was more on promoting awareness of preventative measures rather than raising money, Oliver said.
"We’re taking extra efforts in these areas of prevention because we know the importance," she said.
Prior to the start of the run, Oliver encouraged runners to be aware about staying heart-healthy and to help promote the growth of the 5K in upcoming years.
"Our Healthiest Weight initiative and Tobacco Free Florida initiative are working very hard, and I encourage you to check out our websites... for tools to share with yourselves and others," she said.
Wolf said she enjoyed the run, which she discovered through her daughter.
"I wish more people knew about it," she said.
Oliver said community involvement was an important factor to promote the race and the FDOH initiatives. Several of these organizations, including Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, and Tobacco Free Florida had tables at the event and supplied information to the public by answering questions and handing out pamphlets.
"It’s very much a collaboration with our community," Oliver said.
Kourtney Oliver (center), the program coordinator for the Healthiest Weight Florida initiative in Alachua County, runs in the inaugural World Heart Day 5K event at Fred Cone Park on Sept. 26, 2015. Forty-seven people registered to run to raise awareness for heart disease and stroke prevention.