When parched runners get to the third water station at the Rhythm of Life fun run this weekend, they can be sure to get lots of encouragement from volunteers Bill and Kath Conolly.
The pair have been volunteering at the Burnaby Lake Park event annually since it started in 1998, hydrating and cheering on the runners and walkers who tackle a fiveor 10-kilometre route in support of Burnaby Hospital.
Over the years, the Conollys have watched their kids, and later their grandkids pass their water station, and today they recognize many of the participants from the community.
"It's a great joy when the first runners come, and we can see who it is, because last year, it was one of our own Healthy Heart types - a guy who's about 40," said Bill, who co-founded the Healthy Heart Program, which hosts the event. "When you see somebody who's 75 who's walking and doing just so well, that's fantastic. And when you see grandparents with kids, that's even better."
After suffering a heart attack in the late '90s, the now-retired engineer realized he needed to develop a healthier lifestyle and formed a support program out of Burnaby Hospital to support cardiac patients.
"It's great because people come out of the Healthy Heart Program quite renewed," said Conolly. "One of the key things after having a major heart incident is, 'My God, can I do anything in the future?'"
Today the program offers heart health screening, counselling and education to support cardiac risk reduction and rehabilitation, as well organized exercise meet-ups to motivate post-treatment patients to stay active.
The fun run will help support the group's programming and also help purchase a $65,000 adult ventilator for Burnaby Hospital.
The fourteenth annual Rhythm of Life: the Run and Walk for Everyone at Burnaby Lake is happening this Sunday, Sept. 9 at 10 a.m., with registration and package pickup starting at 8: 30 a.m.
The start line is at 3760 Sperling Ave. at the end of Sprott Street.
Routes include a five-km or 10-km run or walk, as well as a one-km family stroll, followed by a barbecue lunch and entertainment and health fair at the park.
All proceeds go to the Healthy Heart Program.
For advance registration and event details, visit www.rhythmofliferun.ca, or call 604-431-2823.