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GNC Liberty Mile race short stretch of fun for runners

| Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
'Fun run' participants dash from the starting line at the GNC Live Well Liberty Mile, which spans one mile from the Strip District to Downtown on Friday, August 17, 2012.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
'Fun run' participants dash from the starting line at the GNC Live Well Liberty Mile, which spans one mile from the Strip District to Downtown on Friday, August 17, 2012. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Ann Ferentino, 39, of Pine Township, and Patrick Stollo, 27, of Shadyside, warm up for the GNC Live Well Liberty Mile by doing push-ups along an alleyway wall in the Strip District on Friday, August 17, 2012.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
Ann Ferentino, 39, of Pine Township, and Patrick Stollo, 27, of Shadyside, warm up for the GNC Live Well Liberty Mile by doing push-ups along an alleyway wall in the Strip District on Friday, August 17, 2012. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Runners warm up in a Strip District alleyway for the GNC Live Well Liberty Mile before the race on Friday, August 17, 2012.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
Runners warm up in a Strip District alleyway for the GNC Live Well Liberty Mile before the race on Friday, August 17, 2012. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Ray-Ray, right, 6, and his sister Ti-Ti Williams, 3, of East Hills, hold a sign and cheer for runners in the 'fun run' during the GNC Live Well Liberty Mile, which spans one mile from the Strip District to Downtown on Friday, August 17, 2012.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
Ray-Ray, right, 6, and his sister Ti-Ti Williams, 3, of East Hills, hold a sign and cheer for runners in the 'fun run' during the GNC Live Well Liberty Mile, which spans one mile from the Strip District to Downtown on Friday, August 17, 2012. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Runners for the 'fun run' warm up and check their watches at the starting line for the GNC Live Well Liberty Mile, which spans one mile from the Strip District to Downtown on Friday, August 17, 2012.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Tribune-Review
Runners for the 'fun run' warm up and check their watches at the starting line for the GNC Live Well Liberty Mile, which spans one mile from the Strip District to Downtown on Friday, August 17, 2012. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review

The inaugural GNC Live Well Liberty Mile was billed as a race for everyone, a one-mile run through the heart of the city Friday night that was open to ages 5 through 100.

Until recently, however, Christina Schuliger, 19, could only dream of being included among the estimated 1,200 to 1,500 participants. The North Allegheny High School graduate underwent surgery in October 2010 to remove a brain tumor and part of her cerebellum and, for a while, she couldn't even walk. Doctors said she'd never run again.

But this spring she started running on a treadmill, holding on tightly. Slowly, she started to loosen her grip and eventually didn't need to hold on at all.

Shortly after 7 p.m. Friday in Downtown, she and her mother, Janine Schuliger, crossed the finish line along Liberty Avenue just before Sixth Avenue, having completed the distance in 12 minutes, 13 seconds.

“It was good because, before my surgery, I was a cross-country runner, and I did a lot of races,” Christina Schuliger said. “Getting to this point was very difficult, so being able to cross the finish line was like, ‘Yes, I can do it.'”

The race was a project of Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon and had multiple waves of starts ranging from a recreational fun category to an elite field including 10 men who have posted sub-four-minute-mile times.

Heather Kampf, 24, of Minneapolis won the women's elite race in 4:35.8 and Craig Miller, 25, of Madison, Wis., won the men's race in 3:58.4. Both are the reigning 2012 USA 1 Mile Road champions.

But most folks enjoying the evening were just there to have fun.

For one family from Peters, it was a rare opportunity for everyone to run together. Mom Christi Prado, 40, paired up with daughter Riley, 8, to race girls versus boys against her husband, Eric Prado, 41, and their son, Eli, 5.

“(Riley and Eli) did the kids' mile for the marathon, and we saw this and said let's do it because the four of us can run together, which isn't always the case,” Christi Prado said. “We do a lot together, but this was neat.”

Only a few spectators were there for the start of the race, including Erin Quinlan of Franklin Park, and her 5-year-old daughter, Emily, 5, who were there to cheer on Emily's big sister, Megan, 8, who was running with their father, Tom Quinlan.

“She's excited,” Erin Quinlan said. “She likes to run.”

The Liberty Mile is part of a grassroots nationwide effort known as Bring Back the Mile, which is working to reintroduce the distance to the American race world and replace the 1,600-meter distance at high school track and field meets.

“It's the hottest thing in road racing now because it works for everybody,” said Jeff Hennion, 45, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at title sponsor GNC, who broke a 6:30 time to achieve his goal. “It's growing all over the country and Pittsburgh didn't have one, so this is perfect.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7980 or kprice@ tribweb.com.

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