After a very successful track and field career, trail-blazing, three-time Olympian Anne Audain wanted to ensure that women and girls of all ages would have an opportunity to stand on a start line and cross the finish line to experience their own sense of empowerment and accomplishment.
So she founded the Women’s Fitness Celebration, here in Idaho. That was 20 years ago, and the Celebration has created just this opportunity for tens of thousands of girls and women ever since. And this year, on Sept. 22, 44 women will participate in the event for the 20th time!
The St. Luke’s Women’s Fitness Celebration is the largest women’s 5k walk/run in the United States, and it’s a perfect fit for St. Luke’s in our mission of promoting the health of people in all the communities we serve. Many women also will travel to Boise from outside the state, and even outside the country, to participate.
It’s a wonderful event, and evidence of St. Luke’s commitment to improving health for everyone, directly and indirectly. We are committed to women’s health in part because we recognize that women influence the health of not only themselves, but entire families.
You do not need to be an athlete to enjoy the Celebration. Women of all ages and fitness levels take part and have fun doing so. Young – By that, I mean anyone younger than me! – or old, regardless, the Celebration is a great way to get exercise, stay fit, enjoy the companionship of other women, take in a beautiful day, and support the cause of women’s health.
Infants enjoy spending quality time outdoors with their mothers pushing them in strollers. Young girls appreciate having the opportunity to walk with their mothers and friends on a beautiful Boise September day, while their mothers reinforce the importance of health and fitness.
Every year, I am especially inspired by the women athletes who compete in the elite wheelchair division, and I’ll be clapping loudly for the women in their 70s and above as they cross the finish line to be greeted by “Tuxedo Row,” those handsome young men wearing tuxedo jackets without pants (Oh, stop that! I just mean they wear shorts instead of a complete tux; everything is kid-friendly at the St. Luke’s Women’s Fitness Celebration!). These young-at-heart women, who model a lifelong commitment and dedication to health and fitness, are escorted on stage and presented with roses and medals by the guys in tuxes.
Companies and various groups sponsor teams of women to participate, and this year, it’s quite a bargain. The $20 fee for non-competitive waves is the same price as in 1993! There is a school cup team competition, and the top team will win $500 for their school to use towards physical education equipment. It’s a creative way to keep kids moving year round, and fight the epidemic of childhood obesity America is experiencing.
It takes more than 1,000 volunteers to staff this event, and to me, that volunteer dedication is another sign of support and commitment from our communities to make sure this event is successful.
There are also events leading up to race day. One of my favorites is Women in Business, which this year will be Sept. 18 starting at 11:45 a.m. at Boise Centre on the Grove, in partnership with Key Bank. This event gives me the chance to learn more about all the fantastic women leaders we are privileged to have in Idaho. The focus this year will be on the world of social media and how to maximize this form of communication for business (Have I mentioned my blog lately :) ?).
And don’t miss the Women’s Show at the Centre on the Grove Sept. 20 and 21. It’s fun for the entire family; I go every year and wouldn’t miss it. This year, in addition to all the booths and free stuff to pick up, there will be an increased emphasis on health-oriented vendors throughout the two days. Don’t miss the massages! Note to the guys: Husbands and boyfriends, take your special girl. Not only will you get extra credit from her, but you’ll have a great time, I promise.
I’m looking forward to all the events this year, as I always do. I look forward to the Women in Business lunch and the Celebration Women’s Show; I get goose bumps when Air St. Luke’s flies over; I get intimidated by the women athletes from all over the country and world that participate in the race; I get a kick out of all the cute kids in strollers and holding their moms’ hands; and I love seeing all the people who turn out in costume.
And then there’s the fantastic, very fun High Street Band that will perform on stage at the Ann Morrison Park following the race. Who knows? Maybe I’ll bring out my trumpet again this year!
For more on the Celebration:
David C. Pate, M.D., J.D., is president and CEO of St. Luke's Health System, based in Boise, Idaho. Dr. Pate joined the System in 2009. He received his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center.