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Upcoming 5K races not to miss

| Friday, July 20, 2007

Virtually anyone can stage a 5K race, but not everyone can stage a good 5K race.

As Kevin Smith of Elite Runners & Walkers in Robinson Township pointed out, runners are looking for events. They want a well-marked course with plenty of volunteers, decent trophies and medals that are awarded in a timely fashion, good courses, food and beverages after the race and entertainment value.

Here are some unique local 5Ks that have it all.

Kayla's Run for S.I.D.S.

Sunday, 9 a.m., 5K run/2-mile walk beginning at Baldwin High School.

Cost: $18 day of race

Benefits: SIDS of Pennsylvania

The skinny: After Gary Mangan lost his daughter, Kayla, to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, the long-time marathoner decided to start a 5K in her memory to raise money for research and help other families suffering the loss of a child to SIDS.

Kayla's big sister Kari, 11, designs T-shirts every year, and the rolling neighborhood course takes you past the Mangan household, where a banner bearing Kayla's name hangs on race day.

The race draws about 700 people, and Mangan believes half come for the cause while half come for a shot at the 100-plus prizes he gives away, including several televisions and weekend getaways. Everyone who registers is entered to win.

Trophies are awarded to the top overall male and female finishers and to the top three males and females in each age group. Safety note: no bikes, rollerblades, skateboards, etc., but strollers are OK.

Brookline Breeze

Aug. 11, one-mile fun run begins at 8:35 a.m., 5K Run/Fitness Walk begins at 9 a.m. Both races start at the Brookline Memorial Community Center (1400 Breining St.).

Cost: Before July 29, $12 for 5K race, $9 for 5K walk, $6 for 1-mile mini-breeze, $12 for wheelchair race. One immediate family (up to five) can register for the 5K race for $26. Late fee adds $3.

Benefits: Brookline area food bank, Meals on Wheels, Brookline area recreation programs and Brookline Regional Catholic

The skinny: This is a challenging 5K route in the South Hills that will also serve as the USATF 5K championship for the Pittsburgh region. But the scene afterward, complete with live entertainment and plenty of food, is worth attending.

The second annual Brookline Community Festival begins immediately following this year's race, with plenty of activities for the kids including a petting zoo, pony rides, face painting and a climbing wall. All registered runners, walkers and mini-breezers get a T-shirt.

Courtney's Ice Cream Race

Aug. 15, 7 p.m. at United Community Hospital, Grove City.

Cost: $10 day of race; T-shirts are optional for an additional $6.

Benefits: United Community Hospital Cardiology Services

The skinny: The Mercer County Twilight QUAD series, of which the Ice Cream Race is a part, has been held for 24 years, but the race dates to a day in Mark Courtney's personal history.

Courtney decided to hold a 5K race in 1993 to correspond with his 5,000th consecutive day of running. He gave away free ice cream courtesy of a local family-owned shop. It's 14 years later and the ice cream shop is long gone, but Courtney hasn't missed a day of running in the last 10,000 and is still giving away ice cream after the annual event.

The race drew 700 participants and dished out 100 gallons of ice cream last year. The course is an out-and-back, rolling course with a gradual half-mile downhill finish.

Run Around the Square

Aug. 25, 1 1/2-mile fun run/walk at 8:15 a.m., and 5K run/walk at 9 a.m. Start for both races at the Regent Square School at Henrietta and Milton Avenues, Regent Square. Finish for fun run also at Regent Square School; finish for 5K in Fern Hollow, Frick Park.

Cost: $19 by Aug. 18; $22 after including day of race.

Benefits: Regent Square Civic Association, Frick Park Environmental Center and Wilkins Community Center.

The skinny: The first mile or so or the Run Around the Square is easy enough, cruising through the tree-lined neighborhood streets with plenty of music and cheering residents. From there, it's into Frick Park and onto the trails, with a steady uphill until you reach Braddock Avenue, go up Forbes Avenue and back into the park for a downhill finish into Fern Hollow.

That's where the party starts. There's plenty of food, including hot dogs and beer. Prizes will be awarded to the top five men and top five women, with gift certificates to top age-group winners. Special awards go to top Regent Square residents and weight classes, and there are prize drawings. The race drew 1,300 participants last year, with approximately 1,000 runners and walkers entered in the 5K.

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