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September 30
Fun runs and daily play change with the seasons

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Fun runs and daily play change in beautiful ways come fall and winter. The leaves turn color and coat the ground. The air crisps up and ignites the last smells of summer. The sound of footsteps begins to soften.

 
Welcome to some of the best running of the year. The Bonny Sosa Tuesday Night Race Series continues in Anchorage through October, along with an array of walking and running events that keep the chilling, darkening season warmed up throughout Alaska.
 
Get the skinny on fall and winter events through Play Every Day, Healthy Futures, and the Municipality of Anchorage Runners Calendar.
 
Here’s a quick rundown of a few family-friendly events throughout Alaska this October:
 
Oct. 4
 
  • Hit the Trails: 5k and 2k options, 10 a.m. at Trailside Elementary in Anchorage
  • The Home Run: 5k and 10k loop courses, 8:15 a.m. and 8:45 a.m., 3190 Alumni Drive in Anchorage, www.AEclubUAA.com
  • It Ain’t Easy Hill Run: 5 miles flat, 11.3 miles hilly, 10 a.m. at Dog Mushers Hall, Farmers Loop in Fairbanks, www.runningclubnorth.org
 
Oct. 5
 
  • Readers on the Run: 5k walk/run, 11 a.m. John Trigg Ester Library Gazebo in Fairbanks
 
Oct 11
 
  • Run the Rock: 10k at 10 a.m., 13.1 mile at 10 a.m., 5k at 12:30 p.m., starting at the Bear Valley Golf Course in Kodiak, www.kmxt.org/run_the_rock/
 
Oct. 18
 
 
Oct. 25
 
  • Skinny Raven Frightening 4k: 11 a.m. at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage,
    www.skinnyraven.com
  • 33rd Halloween Family Run: 2 and 10 miles, 10 a.m. at the UAF Patty Center in Fairbanks, www.runningclubnorth.org
  • 2nd Annual Costume Run 5k: meet at 11 a.m. at the Nikiski Community Recreation Center, www.northpenrec.com
September 22
Tuesday Night Race Series inspires fun on the walk, jog, run

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Nearly 1,000 people will jog, run, walk and sprint over and through leaves, mud and puddles in each of eight races in the Bonny Sosa Tuesday Night Race Series this fall. The event run by Anchorage Parks and Recreation has engaged people of all ages in fun runs on city trails for decades.
The rainier and windier the night, the fewer the participants, but not by a lot — 854 people joined the first race this year compared to 1,100 who ran the second “less rainy and windy night,” said Margaret Timmerman of Parks and Recreation.
Needless to say, rain, wind and other dynamics like hilly courses and competitors in costume make for fun and unpredictable workouts. The race lengths vary for age, interest and skill, with courses ranging from a few kilometers for kids and kids at heart, 3 to 10 for recreational runners, and 4 to 12 for competitive racers. 
Timmerman reiterated the core principle of the program when giving tips for kids of all ages: “Stay on course, watch for trail markers and enjoy yourself,” she said. “It doesn’t matter where you place, just that you get out and run.”
The race series represents just one of the many ways Anchorage supports getting out and playing. Remember to check out the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Activity Guide for activities like swimming, basketball, dance, skiing and yoga. Many are free or low-cost and open to all skill levels and ages.
As for the Tuesday Races, well they continue through the costume run on Oct. 28 and the awards banquet on Nov. 4. Online registration closes at 6 p.m. on the day of the event, with race time at 6:30 p.m. On-site registration is available at some races, but check online to confirm.
Here’s the remaining 2014 race schedule:   
·        September 23 - Tozier Track
·        September 30 - East High
·        October 7 - Russian Jack Springs Park (Cartee Fields)
·        October 14 - Service High
·        October 21 - Service High
·        October 28 - Kincaid Park Costume Run
·        November 4 - Kincaid Outdoor Center

Photo courtesy Anchorage Parks and Recreation
September 09
Kids, cameras, ACTION! Play Every Day video contest puts kids behind the lens

Hey Alaska kids:

Do you have a fun way you like to play?
We challenge you to show us what that looks like. The Play Every Day campaign is holding a video PSA contest challenging elementary school students across Alaska to create a short video about how you get out and play. The deadline for entries is Friday, October 31. 15-OPCP-0907-School PSA Poster-3C-SJ[1].jpg
Last year, Gladys Wood Elementary School in Anchorage created a fun video about how students there get physically active and do the Healthy Futures Challenge, which kicks off again in 186 Alaska schools this week. We thought the idea was so creative we decided to start a statewide video contest.
Use your video to show how you get physically active every day, complete the Healthy Futures Challenge, or a combination of both.
Here’s how it works:
Who: All Alaska public elementary school students in grades K-6. All entries must be supported and sponsored by a teacher or another adult school staff member. Students should take the lead in the creative direction and production, but an adult can advise students and help with the filming.
What: Make a 25-second public service announcement (PSA) video that motivates Alaska kids and families to get physically active and stay healthy.
When: Start now! Come up with your ideas, film the video and turn it in by 5 p.m. October 31, 2014.
Where: Film the creative ways you are physically active at your school or in your communities.
Why: Because playing is fun, and so is filming videos with your friends.
A panel of judges from the Play Every Day campaign and Healthy Futures will select the top three videos based on overall presentation, creativity, quality and adherence to the contest criteria. The school that films the first-place video will receive a $500 gift card to buy physical activity equipment for the school, plus $25 gift cards for up to 10 students who worked closely on the video. Prizes include Play Every Day T-shirts for participating students, teachers and the principal.
Want more information about the contest? Please visit our webpage to learn more.
Now grab your friends and make a movie – kids, cameras, ACTION!

September 03
Jamborees give kids a chance to run away with a smile

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Give a kid a race bib, and she’ll run. Give him a finish line, and he’ll lunge over it. Rain or shine, breezy or chilly, the Anchorage School District’s Elementary Cross-Country Jamborees give kids a chance to dash and run away with a sense of accomplishment.

“Much like the Tuesday Night Race series organized by the Muni, these Jamborees offer our children's families low-stakes and high-energy opportunities for healthy exercise and play,” said Ben Elbow, a co-organizer of the North Anchorage Jamboree and a physical education teacher at Rogers Park Elementary. “As a parent and teacher in Anchorage, I'm thankful for our city's tremendous trail system and appreciate all the dedicated volunteers who help organize these events.”
The annual citywide event began in 1987 when Baxter Elementary teacher Mike Allan threw the first Jamboree with help from Baxter Community Schools. He ran the Jamborees until 2003, when the elementary school physical education staff decided to split the race into three regional events in north Anchorage, south Anchorage, and Eagle River. By then, many schools had formed after-school running groups to help kids build endurance and confidence while playing games and running.
Now thousands of kids join the Jamborees across the city, and all receive ribbons after their photo finish.
"The Anchorage Elementary School Jamborees are one of the truly great Alaskan family traditions and they embody everything Healthy Futures stands for," said Harlow Robinson, the executive director of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and the Healthy Futures program. "We are proud to be a partner and to support the event any way we can."
Students can get a head start on the Jamborees by doing the Coyote Classic at Kincaid Elementary on Sept. 13 at 10 a.m. Get a rundown of events and fun runs for kids here and on the Healthy Futures calendar. Here are the dates and times of the upcoming Jamborees:
·        Beach Lake Trails (Eagle River) Jamboree – Thursday, Sept. 11, at the Chugiak High School soccer fields and trails starting at 5 p.m.
·        North Anchorage Jamboree – Wednesday, Sept. 24, at Bartlett High School starting at 5 p.m.
·        South Anchorage Jamboree – Saturday, Sept. 27, at Service High School starting at 9:30 a.m.
 
Photo courtesy of Healthy Futures. 
August 27
Skiku gets the jam on to keep kids active all year

BlueberryJamGirlinPinkSkikuShot2014.jpgThe first Blueberry Jam Fun Run in Kotzebue last year drew 65 people to the rolling, scenic course. Skiku coaches expected a few more this year and ended up picking barely enough berries for the 265 people who walked, jogged and ran across the finish line.

With ripe fruit and beautiful terrain as ingredients, the Blueberry Jam represents one of the many activities orchestrated by Skiku – sometimes known as NANANordic – to promote a healthy and active lifestyle for Alaska kids. What began as a Nordic ski program now integrates running, biking, and duathlon training with skate skiis and laser rifles.
“Being active all year is what we’re promoting,” said Robin Kornfield, the program manager for Skiku and vice president of communications and marketing for NANA Development. “Hunting, fishing and gathering are part of the lifestyle, and this fits into what people already do.”
Skiku runs a Nordic ski program in March and a running program in August. Competitive skiers come from throughout the country coach school kids in communities like Selawik, Kotzebue, Noatak and Shungnak. These volunteers teach physical fitness, Nordic skiing, the winter duathlon and all manner of play and, in turn, get to experience Alaska in a one-of-a-kind way.
The program also provides equipment to kids and schools to help sustain enthusiasm throughout the seasons. This year, Anchorage bicycle shops donated bikes so that kids can ride all year.
Through camps, gear and a good dose of play, the program helps “even people who aren’t into skiing or running stay active and involved,” said Kornfield.

 

Photo by Zach Hall, courtesy of Skiku.

 

August 14
A berry playground within your reach

blueberries.jpgThey abound in yards, along trails, in the alpine tundra. They appear bold and plump, bright and dense, firm and tender. They taste impeccable by the handful, on oatmeal, in smoothies.

Yep, its berry picking time in Alaska and this year’s pickings look plentiful and ripe. Gathering berries gets us outside and moving, while also yielding a cache of goodies to eat, freeze, can and dry for months to come.  
 
“All of Alaska’s berries, like blueberries, cranberries, and currents, provide vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants that can help prevent chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer,” said Diane Peck, the Public Health Nutritionist for the state’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program.
“Cup for cup, cloudberries, or low-bush salmonberries, provide three times the amount of vitamin C in orange juice.”
 
Leslie Shallcross, an associate professor in the Anchorage office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service, agreed. “Alaska wild berries are true nutrition power houses with even higher levels of antioxidants than their Lower 48 counterparts and the most abundant fruit type growing in Alaska,” she added. “Regular consumption of berries has been linked to many health benefits such as improved memory, lower blood sugar levels and decreased pain.”
 
All of which is to say, there are many good reasons to fill a pail with berries. Many Alaskans hold dear the secret to their favorite berry patch, of course, but it only takes a bit of looking to find one.
 
“Some of the parks in Anchorage will have blueberries, lingonberries, watermelon berries, currants, rose hips, high bush cranberry,” said Shallcross. “For family outings, Girdwood, Arctic Valley, Hatcher's Pass, Hope are favorites in South Central. …Some only grown in the damper, milder temperatures of Southeast Alaska.”
 
Berries don’t grow abundantly in the same places every year, so it pays to go on hikes ahead of time to look for flowers and immature berries. The exact ripening period varies in different regions and years, but most berries are ready to pick in mid to late July through August, with some ripening as late as September.
 
Some popular types of berries ripen in this order, from early to late summer -- wild strawberry, currants, wild raspberry, cloudberry, nagoonberry, salmonberry, blueberry, highbush cranberry, rosehip, crowberry, service berry.
 
“Altogether, there are around 40 different edible berries, although not all of these are tasty,” said Shallcross.
 
A few are poisonous or unpalatable, so it’s important to know how to identify them. Baneberry is particularly poisonous and just a few berries can lead to death. Adults should make sure children know how to identify safe berries before picking them, and beware of wildlife, plant live (like Devil’s club) and other hazards associated with the wilderness.
 
Parents should make sure their children know how to identify safe berries before picking them, and beware of wildlife, plant life (like Devil’s club) and other hazards associated with the wilderness.  As always when headed outdoors, take water and prepare for the weather.
 
There are numerous online sources to help, like Berry picking 101, as well as books like Verna Pratt's Alaska's Wild Berries and Berry-like Fruit and from Wild Edible and Poisonous Plants of Alaska. Other sources can give tips on how to store and prepare wild berries.
 
Armed with some knowledge and an appetite, everyone can fill up on one of the healthiest food on the planet by plucking them from the berry playground within your reach. 
August 05
Alaska community gardens plant seeds of health

Maybe you rent an apartment and don’t have a yard. Perhaps you have a yard, but it’s not big enough for a garden that feeds your family. Or, maybe you just like to plant vegetables among family, friends and neighbors.

All of these are great reasons to check out a local community garden program in your city. A number of Alaska communities have low-cost garden plots that you can rent to supply your family with lettuce, carrots and other vegetables throughout the summer. Here are links to some of them, but call your city to ask about gardens in your area:
These websites will help you find out when to register for a plot, what supplies are available and the rules for renting garden space. Fair warning: Community garden programs can be very popular and there may be waiting lists due to a limited number of plots.
There are lots of benefits to renting garden plots. You know what goes into your greens, and you can’t get much more local than your own garden plot. You have a place to be physically active — preparing the land, planting and harvesting — and reap the healthy rewards at your dinner table. You can get your kids involved, showing them how to grow their own food.
What can you grow? On its website, Juneau’s garden association calls potatoes “practically foolproof” and rhubarb “almost effortless.” The association recommends planting a short row of lettuce every couple of weeks, and to consider kale, a leafy green that “loves our weather.”
You can also save money by renting a garden plot. The cost for one plot in Anchorage is $35. In Juneau, plots also cost $35. The plot cost in Fairbanks is $40. Some gardens come with extras, including water for irrigation, picnic tables for family gatherings, portable toilets and a nearby area for kids to get out and play. Families can use their plots to grow their own vegetables without having to spend money purchasing produce that often has to be shipped here from outside states and countries.
Each garden has its rules. You must get your plot ready and planted by a certain time each year, and you need to tend your garden a certain numbers of hours each week. You need to be a good neighbor and keep your produce inside your plot boundaries. And you need to clean up after yourself at the end of the harvest.
Community gardens are in full swing this summer, but be sure to check out your community’s website to learn more about how you can grow your family’s food on a rented garden plot.
 
(Photo copyright 2013 Nathaniel Wilder. Used with permission from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.) 
July 30
An Alaska Quest for fresh food

A person at play needs the right fuel to do it. For that, nothing beats Alaska farmers markets, where you can find fresh, flavorful and nutritious vegetables, meat, seafood and bread.
 
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Through the collaborative effort of state agencies, the United States Department of Agriculture and local farmers markets, Alaskans with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as the Food Stamp Program) benefits can purchase foods from 11 farmers markets throughout the state.
Using Alaska Quest cards – the means for accessing SNAP benefits— eligible Alaskans can also take advantage of a matching program supported by the state that allows them to purchase up to $40 worth of eligible market foods for $20.
“My goal is to increase access to and the availability of healthy foods,” said Diane Peck, the Public Health Nutritionist for the state’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program. “Local food, especially produce, is very healthy, fresh, and it supports local farmers and businesses, supports our economy, and all of that helps public health.”
The Alaska Farmers Markets – Quest Card Program began promoting and supporting the implementation of electronic banking at two pilot markets in 2011 using funds provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Electronic card readers allow markets to accept Quest cards. The pilot markets yielded $13,000 the first year. The program expanded from there, earning markets revenue of $50,000 in 2012 and $114,000 in 2013 when the matching program began.
This year, 11 markets accept Quest cards in Anchorage, Bethel, Homer, Fairbanks, Petersburg, Sitka and Willow, and all provide access to the matching program.
Access to fresh local foods makes a difference in health and the local community, said Peck. A survey of Quest card users showed their enthusiasm for supporting local farmers and having access to an array of organic foods, she said, and that means growing the customer base for local farmers.
July 23
The fish are running and so should you

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When you bike, you need wheels. When you swim,
you need water. When you KikkanHollyFishRunningSoShouldYou07.23.2014.jpgski you need snow and boards under your feet. But when you run, you need little more than the right attitude.
 
“You can cover distance, you can do it anywhere, and you don’t need equipment to do it,” said Olympic skier Kikkan Randall, who also won the 2011 Mount Marathon trail race.
 
“And,” added Holly Brooks, the current Mount Marathon champ, “You never know when it’s going to come in handy.”
 
Like when you go from freeze to speed when playing tag, capture the flag, soccer and “keep-up-with-the-dog.” Truth is, you can jog or run anywhere – on trails, tracks, treadmills, playgrounds, grassy fields, sand, and mountain scree.
 
Running can also propel you into fun and unexpected territory. Randall got into skiing to stay in shape for cross country running, and later carried that momentum from Mount Marathon to Sochi, Russia – where she raced in the 2014 Winter Olympics where Holly did the same, and many other athletes and Alaskans integrate running into their journeys.
 
The fish are running and so should you. Check out the Alaska Runner’s Calendar for outdoor events and fun runs throughout Alaska. Here’re a few upcoming highlights from the list:
 
July 16
Obesity in dollars and cents

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PED signs blog.jpgObesity costs our kids by putting them at risk for childhood diabetes, heart disease, asthma and other chronic conditions, as well as putting stress on their joints, bones and organs.

Now translate that into dollars and cents. The medical cost of childhood obesity will top $625 million dollars over the next 20 years when considering just the current group of children and adolescents in Alaska, according to a new study by the University of Alaska’s Institute of Social and Economic Research.
 
This number doesn’t include indirect costs of obesity, such as lower productivity, missed time from work or limited education, said the study’s author, Mouhcine Guettabi, an assistant economics professor at UAA.  Guettabi said the number “can be used as the absolute lower boundary of medical cost estimates.”
 
The study used a 2012 cohort of children from 2 to 19 years old to estimate obesity-related medical costs over 20 years for that group only. The pattern will continue in Alaska as more children are born, grow up, and become obese.
 
“This picture will repeat itself over and over and over,” Guettabi said.
 
The study bases its numbers on current patterns of obesity that show 15.2 percent of Alaska’s children classified as obese and 20 percent of non-obese Alaska children become obese adults.
 
The study concludes that reducing obesity rates in children between 2 and 19 years by 1 percent would save nearly $17 million over 20 years. Decreasing the percentage of non-obese kids who become obese adults by 1 percent would save over $14.3 million over 20 years. Dropping the percentage of obese adolescents who become obese adults would save another $2.9 million.
 
“The best way to save our children from the health burden of obesity is to prevent it in the first place, address it in childhood, and model family habits that promote lifelong nutrition and physical activity,” said Karol Fink, director of the Obesity Prevention and Control Program for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
 
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