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Billiken 5K: Running for a cure

Despite a hint of rain, a crowd of more than 500 people gathered at Chaifetz Arena in the early morning this past Labor Day, Sporting shorts and running shoes, the crowd intended to complete the Billiken 5K Run and Family Walk in order to raise money for the SLU Cancer Center.  The participants ranged from the average jogger to the familiar local runners, but they all had one goal in mind: to compete, raise money and inspire each other as well as onlookers to support a great cause.
The race began at Chaiftez Arena, continued on for approximately three miles through campus, and finally ended back at the arena. In addition, the event included a fun-run for children and casual walkers. The competitors jogged along to the sounds of emcee Jim Cerone, who kept the event ticking for all of the spectators. Individuals were free to explore the various booths and activity stations, which included a master balloon-animal maker for the children.
Among those in attendance included the two race directors, Bob Becker and Ed Heigl. Becker, who has been the race director since 2006, expressed his desire to keep the Billiken 5K growing, so that one day it can become a major St. Louis race  alongside the Go St. Louis Marathon or the Rock and Roll Marathon, both of which bring in huge numbers of participants every year. He hopes that as the number of participants increases, the benefit to the SLU Cancer Center will increase as well.
An especially popular figure at the event was Ed Heigl, a former Billiken track athlete who graduated in 1979. In addition to having run over 100,000 miles in his lifetime, Heigl was at the run to celebrate making it through his 43rd treatment of chemotherapy.  Despite having Stage four colon cancer, he managed to finish in the top group of runners.
When asked about the race Heigl said, “Today I took it easy ‘cause I was running with a little fever this morning.”  He credits his faith, exercise and nutrition for his ability to push through his cancer.
Heigl stood out from the rest of the crowd due to the American flag he carried. When asked about the flag, he answered, “I carry the flag for God, life and country… and it’s my cross to bear, just like my cancer. And I carry it for every 5K, 10K or marathon that I do.”
SLU’s athletic director Chris May was also spotted helping to set up the event and encouraging participants.  A runner himself, he has completed the Billiken 5K multiple times.
When asked about the Billiken 5K, May stated that the importance of the race is the connection it brings to our community.  “That’s one of our objectives of the athletic department- to connect with our community and to work with the cancer center. There’s not a better cause on campus.”
The event was staffed by volunteers from the SLU cross country and track and field teams, who worked throughout the day to set up the race and pass out water to the men, women and children that took on the 5K run.  The event that began with cloudy skies concluded with medals given to the champions and funds that will go towards the fight against cancer.

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