Runners gather for 47th annual Health Focus Distance Run

Published: Sep. 6, 2021 at 3:44 PM EDT
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SALEM, Va. (WDBJ) - 125 runners gathered at the starting line outside Salem Red Sox stadium Monday morning for the 47th annual Health Focus Distance Run.

The race was back in full force this year after a much smaller gathering last August due to the pandemic.

Beginning in 1974, the event is the oldest distance run in the Roanoke Valley, with proceeds benefitting Health Focus of Southwest Virginia’s scholarship and education programs.

The event was sponsored this year by Roanoke Valley ENT and Allergy.

“There’s a lot of burnout and fatigue and there’s a short supply of health care workers and one of the big burdens to medical education is the cost and that’s why I’m very passionate about this race, because it raises money for something I believe in, which is medical education and providing care for our community,” said Dr. Paul Lenkowski, owner and CEO of Roanoke Valley ENT & Allergy.

Over the years, the run has raised more than $4 million in scholarships.

“All our scholarships go to nurses, doctors, dental hygienists, any type of health care worker so we’re just happy to make that possible for them,” says HFSWVA’s Laurie Gibbons.

A prayer and moment of silence was observed at the event as runners honored their friend Andy Dalton, who collapsed and died at a race in Roanoke Saturday.

Some wore his photo, running in his memory.

A runner in the Labor Day race paid tribute to Andy Dalton, who collapsed and died unexpectedly...
A runner in the Labor Day race paid tribute to Andy Dalton, who collapsed and died unexpectedly at a race in Roanoke on Saturday.(Runabout Sports Roanoke )

“It’s great to come together in times like these when we face a lot of struggles and challenges and conflicts out there,” said Mark Long, a fellow runner with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. “This is the kind of event we can come together as a community, unite as a community rather and just spend time focusing on what matters most.”

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