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Local runners hope to raise funds for Alzheimer's research

Shown at the end of the 2011 Reach the Beach 200 mile relay race are “Sistas with Blistas” of the Plymouth area. Participating last year were Meredith Houseman, Tobi Pfenninger, Audrey Goudie, Leann Stokoe, Christine Louis, Penny Huynen, Julie Fogarty, Kathleen O’Connor, Sue Sampson and Kim Henry. The women raised $8,000 for Alzheimer’s Association last year, and hope to up their contribution for this year’s annual run. Stepping in join the team this year will be Patty Dimick. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
September 05, 2012
HOLDERNESS — A group of energetic and enthusiastic women from the Plymouth area, known collectively as "Sistas with Blistas," will be setting out over Sept. 14 and 15 to "Reach the Beach" in their efforts to raise money for Alzheimer's Run for the Memory campaign.

This year will mark the third time the 12 ladies will head on foot from Cannon Mountain to run the 200 mile, 24 hour relay race to Hampton Beach, and they hope to beat their 2011 contribution of $8,000 this time around.

"The first year, we just paid the registration fees and ran the course, but last year, we decided to raise money for the Alzheimer's Association," said team co-captain Penny Huynen of Holderness.

Fees are waived if teams raise $4,000 or more for one of the many benefactors named in the race series, which also holds similar events in Massachusetts and New Jersey. For the New Hampshire race, teams can choose from the Alzheimer's Association, New Hampshire Parks and Recreation, the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Rotary Organization, the nonprofit education-focused group City Year, or the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

"We chose Alzheimer's because a lot of us are dealing with someone in our family who suffers from it," Huynen said.

Many of the runners will wear a ribbon somewhere on their outfit in honor of a loved one with Alzheimer's disease.

The idea to join the challenge of the Reach the Beach Relay Race came about through Huynen and her co-captain Jackie Downing, who run together regularly. Deciding they wanted to "up" their running experience, they sought out other women interested in doing the same and thus, "Sistas with Blistas" was born.

Getting a team together was the easy part, though, and each year, the preparations have proven to be more difficult than the race itself.

"The hardest part is the logistics of the whole thing, like how to make the transitions and who runs when. Things like that," said Huynen. "Once we're out there, everything just takes its course."

Teams are given two vans for their runners, who will each take turns on three legs apiece for the journey to Hampton. Someone is on the road at all times, and the rest of the team serves to cheer them on along the way. Come evening, those who are not running try to get a few hours of sleep before they race back out in their van to join the current runners.

"The individual legs we all run are spaced about eight to 10 hours apart so you can get some rest, but we have to stay in the same rotation of runners throughout the night," Huynen said.

The shortest total distance she and her teammates will run individually is 14.5 miles, while the longest distance will be 22.5 miles over three of the 36 legs in the race. She said they generally run between three to six miles each time a runner takes to the course.

And the fun is decorating the vans they will use to support them along the way.

"We all decorate them with lights, magnets, paint and all kinds of things. You want to make sure you can recognize your van when you're out there running in the dark with hundreds of other vans along the road, too," Huynen said.

Countless volunteers assist in the 24-hour challenge, and people often gather along the roadsides to cheer as everyone runs by. Church groups and other organizations also stay up all night to help direct traffic and send the runners safely on their way as they race through town after town.

At the end of the long journey is the welcome sight of the Atlantic Ocean, signaling success for each team who goes the distance. Photos and a little celebration then takes place before the tired participants turn in their vans and head for home, struggling to stay awake until they get there.

"It's a great feeling," Huynen said. "Reach the Beach is kind of our carrot to keep us running all year now."

To contribute to Sistas with Blistas' efforts, checks made out to the Alzheimer's Association may be mailed to Penny Huynen at 142 Heritage Hill Rd., Holderness, N.H. 03245. More information on the Reach the Beach Relay may be found at www.nh.rtbrelay.com.

Garnett Hill
Salmon Press
Parker Village
Martin Lord Osman
Northern Human Services
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