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Race director Dr. Alden Glidden stood ready at the finish line erected at Veterans Memorial Park Wednesday morning, greeting finishers of the annual Hangover Handicap with praise, a smile, and a marker for their time.

“Very good,” Glidden told a runner coming through the chute.

Glidden watched as about 70 participants kicked off the New Year and a new decade with a 2.3 mile loop around Klamath Falls. Runners and walkers of all abilities bundled up, some with their children and four-legged friends in tow, for a mild Jan. 1 run.

“We started in the early ‘70s,” Glidden said, of the annual New Year’s Day event. “It started out as a few of us runners getting together to run and then turned into a major deal. And then it just exploded from there.

“For the runners, it’s invigorating, inspiring, gets the health kick going,” Glidden added.

Family tradition

Now the run is a tradition for many in Klamath Falls, and for some former locals who have left the area.

For Klamath Falls resident Doug Madsen and his family, it’s a tradition that they have adopted as part of their New Year’s Day routine.

“It’s just a good way to start out the year,” Doug said, warming up before the race with 8-year-old grandson Mark Madsen.

The Madsen and Martinez clan, clad in matching red T-shirts, posed for photos before and following the race.

Second place finisher Bryce Madsen, who ran a time of 15 minutes, three seconds, and his wife Crystal Madsen, and their children were in town from Singapore, where Crystal teaches and Bryce operates a business.

The 1998 Bonanza and Henley High grads were all smiles to be able to participate in the race.

Marci and Adrian Martinez and three of their children traveled from Texas to spend the holidays with family and run in the race.

“Perfect way to start the new year,” Marci Madsen said.

Living in Houston, the former Klamath Falls resident said there’s no New Year’s Day race that has quite the small town feel like the Hangover Handicap.

“It’s not the same community fun feel that we love,” she said.

In step

Klamath Falls resident Dan Hawkes wasn’t out for keeping traditions or keeping in step with top finishers, he wanted to kick-start the new year continuing to have a healthy focus. Hawkes walked along in the back of the pack with friend and fellow health enthusiast Shawn Houston.

“I’ve been heavy for a majority of my adult life, all my life really,” Hawkes said. “It was starting to manifest itself in little health issues that were going to become chronic and debilitating health issues if I didn’t change my life.

“I had high blood pressure and high cholesterol,” he added.

Hawkes told himself he needed to either change his life or expectations – that’s what was on the table.

Wellness program

As Hawkes walked along in downtown Klamath Falls, he shared about having lost more than 100 pounds through participating in the Sky Lakes Wellness Center program.

“The thing I got out of it the most was nutritional education that I was really lacking,” he said. “I could count calories but if you’re counting the wrong calories, it doesn’t help.”

Houston also lost more than 100 pounds through the same program and learned much more about a nutritional diet and exercise.

Both wanted to start the new year on the right foot, continuing down the path to good health.

“Shawn stopped in at the museum to see if I’d be interested and I didn’t blink,” Hawkes said of the Hangover Handicap.

Both encourage individuals to consult with their physician about what kind of exercise and diet is right for them.

“If you made a New Year’s resolution to change your life or lose some weight, the folks at the Wellness Center can help you be highly successful,” Hawkes said. “You’ll wish you did it years ago.”