Alzheimer's Disease can arguably be called one of the most cruel diseases there is. While the disease is most likely as old as mankind itself, it was first called Alzheimer's after a 1901 identification of the malady by Alois Alzheimer, a German psychiatrist, who followed the case of a woman who had it until she died in 1906, at which point Alzheimer talked about it in public.

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The Alzheimer's Association reports that one in three senior citizens has the disease; a new case is diagnosed every 67 seconds. Of all Alzheimer's cases in the United States, nearly two-thirds of them are women.

In response to a recent challenge by the pastor at Leclaire Christian Church in Edwardsville in which members were given $100 and challenged to make a difference in the community, Rachel and David Stack decided to start a five-mile evening run. The run took the name of Solstice Sundowner Trail Run (due to the fact the summer solstice took place the next day), in support of the Alzheimer's Association. The first race took place Saturday evening at Edwardsville Township Park. The event consisted of a five-mile run and a one-mile walk, which drew an estimated 70 participants total.

For Rachel Stack, the event was personal. “A friend of mine from Chicago (where the Stacks had been living prior to moving to the Edwardsville area) had the disease, and she died form it,” Stack said. “The way she handled the disease was really inspiring, and when the pastor (Shane Taylor) gave us the challenge, it inspired me to start this run.

“When she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, I thought she would get better, but she didn't. She really inspired me and that's one of the reasons we started this race.”

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The idea to have the race in the evening instead of the morning, when many road races are run, and for it to be a five-mile race instead of a standard five- or 10-kilometer race, was for it to stand out from other races. “The Alzheimer's Association really embraced the idea,” Rachel Stack, SIU-Edwardsville's vice-chancellor for university advancement, said. “We've had a lot of volunteers and support from the community for the race and we're very grateful for it.”

Publicity for the race really ramped up in the two weeks leading to the event. “We had flyers for the race all over town,” said David Stack, Rachel's husband. “We put it on web site calendars, fitness centers, anyplace we could think of. We got a lot of good reaction from the community, and for a first-year race, I think the turnout's pretty good.”

The race was also held as part of a Alzheimer's Association event called The Longest Day, which is held on the day of the summer solstice as a fundraising event to, as the association's web site puts it, “symbolize the challenging journey of those living with the disease and their caregivers.”

Edwardsville's Elizabeth Speicher was the overall winner of the five-mile event, covering the course in 31:03.3, with Patrick Hoffman of Frederica, Del, the overall men's winner in 32:05. The remainder of the top ten included O'Fallon's Richard Santiago (37:04.3), Hoffman Estates' Pamela Campbell (39:22.2), Sarah George-Waterfield of Carrboro, N.C. (40:15.3), Edwardsville's David Parks (40:46.6), Glen Carbon's James Featherstun (42:28.4), Edwardsville's Ryan Shustrun (44:10.5), Mount Vernon's Jason Irwin (44:33.5) and Mount Vernon's Sean Featherstun (44:34.8).


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