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A helping of charity, health at annual run/walk

Thousands run, walk against hunger in downtown Stockton

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Posted: Friday, November 23, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 7:00 am, Fri Nov 23, 2012.

On a day known for stuffed bellies, afternoon naps and piles of whipped cream on pumpkin pie, some Lodians started off on the right foot: by taking the healthy, charitable route and participating in the Annual Run and Walk Against Hunger in downtown Stockton on Thursday morning.

A mass of about 4,000 bodies in Spandex pants, neon shirts and ear warmers filled the blocked-off Oak Street outside the Stockton Ports Ballpark to run a 5K (3.1 miles) or 10K (6.2 miles) event while supporting the Emergency Food Bank of Stockton and San Joaquin.

Just before 8:30 Thanksgiving morning, Blake Paustenbach of Lodi waited for the countdown with his grandmother, Teri Onishi, who is visiting from Kaneohe, Oahu.

For both Paustenbach and Onishi, it was a special event because they were contributing to a good cause and they could work together.

"I wanted to help feed the hungry," Onishi said. "I could have walked at home, but I decided to come here and spend time with all the grandchildren."

Fleet Feet Stockton owner Tony Vice, a Lodi resident who helped create the race, says this event helps the emergency food bank through the holiday season and far into the next year.

"We need this type of support to carry us through," he said, adding that earlier this week they delivered 2,500 turkeys to the working poor in the area. "We're helping bridge the gap for the people in the community."

As runners and walkers pounded the asphalt, packs of families ran together, cheering each other on and encouraging each other to keep going to the next mile marker. Moms ran pushing strollers. Groups of friends zig-zagged their way forward. And some showed their Thanksgiving spirit by donning turkey hats and full-body turkey costumes.

"We get a lot of people coming out because it's a festive activity," said race director Ralph Womack.

"We like to say it's a little mini-reunion," Vice added. "People are really excited about supporting the cause. It's really infectious."

Blake Paustenbach's brother, Zachary, started the run with a swarm of faster-paced runners. It was his second time to compete in the Run and Walk Against Hunger, and he ran faster this year for a final finish of 27 minutes, 14 seconds.

"I think I shaved off a minute," he said, a big smile on his face.

Lodi High School junior Kellie Olson wanted to run the 5K to support the emergency food bank during an important time of the year, but also because it's important physically — especially knowing that she would be going home to a Thanksgiving feast.

"It helps you stay in shape, and it's for a good cause," she said after crossing the finish line.

Many crossed the finish line with thoughts of Thanksgiving dinner running through their minds, but as Onishi rounded out the 3.1 miles, she was already thinking of her next race.

"Blake said he's going to race again, so I'm contemplating which one I should do," Onishi said.

And while he was worried that he and his grandmother would get lost during the Run and Walk, Blake Paustenbach had fun walking with his grandmother and doing something he thinks is unique for a lot of children.

"I accomplished something that not many seven year olds have done," Blake Paustenbach said.

Contact Lodi Living Editor Lauren Nelson at laurenn@lodinews.com.

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