Mar. 16, 2003 St. Croix might have a mighty St. Paddy's Day parade, and St. John might have a tiny and boisterous St. Paddy's Day parade, but only St. Thomas has the Women's Jogger Jam, and this year was the biggest ever.
Charley Charles, a Charlotte Amalie High School track team member, was the overall winner in 12:47, beating her time last year by 17 seconds.
The two-mile course circles the Roy L. Schneider Hospital up around Fortress Storage, by Lockhart Elementary School, back to the hospital entrance and around once again with feeling.
More than 300 women, teenagers, preteens, and babies in buggies pushed by determined moms, charged, well sort of charged, around the two-mile trek for the 21st time Sunday in an event which will be remembered for its gusto and individuality.
Leading the children's pack in spirit, if not in time was Girl Scout Jaanai Forbes. Forbes is a 10-year-old who finished the track in about half an hour, one time around, in braces and a walker. Smiling from ear to ear, Forbes said, "It was really fun." Though she was sitting down afterward with her mother and friends, she said she wasn't tired.
Her mother, Sandra Felicien, said Jaanai wanted to do it, and she and other friends supported her walker while the child strode around the course. Forbes recently had surgery on her legs to lengthen the hamstring muscles. "It's been about a year now," her mother said, "and she is doing well." Jaanai is a fourth-grade student at Lockhart Elementary School. She was part of a Girl Scout troupe participating in the run.
Marty Goldberg, owner of the Fruit Bowl, looked excited and happy as he greeted the runners at the finish line. The Fruit Bowl sponsors the run in conjunction with the St. Thomas Association of Roadrunners (STAR).
Goldberg never appears to lose his enthusiasm; it's always like the first time for him. "It always feels great we look forward to it every year," he said. And the runners got a bonus this year after all that good exercise and running, Goldberg passed out Ben and Jerry's' ice cream, which was going like, well, like Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Traditionally the runners are rewarded with fruit and water, and they had that choice this year, too.
Still panting from her run, and looking enormously pleased at the event's turnout, Michal Rhymer-Charles said, "This is so great you can feel the energy. It's so wonderful when the community comes together to help." Rhymer-Charles is executive director of the Family Resource Center, the beneficiary of this year's run since the Victim Advocate Program, the traditional beneficiary, closed shop in December. See "Jogger Jam has same cause, new beneficiary."
Possibly the most talked about entry was a 37-year-old barefoot mother of three. Robyn Bitterwolf ran the two miles with no Nikes, and finished in smiles. Tossing back her blond mane, she said, "I support women's groups, but I wanted to make a statement, to protest the war," she said. Though it was her intention to draw attention to her cause, she seemed a little askance, if pleased, at the attention she was receiving. "I hope it does some good," she said, adding, "I left my Nikes home, some really good ones."
She certainly impressed her fellow runners, who between huffs and puffs while running, commented on her gumption. "I wish I could do that," one said. "I really admire her," said someone else. "She's right," another voice chimed in, "I wish we had done something, too." "Well," ventured another between breaths, "I guess we could have gone braless," a notion that didn't go over very well with her peers.
Bitterwolf attributed her respectable finish to her support bra. Actually, she lives on a boat off Water Island, she said, so being barefoot isn't all that unusual.
The icing on the cake came when Bitterwolf heard her 7-year-old daughter Cassandra announced as the winner in her age group.
Notably absent this year were stalwarts LaVerne Ragster, Helen Gjessing and Judy Grybowski. All were attending Ragster's inauguration ceremony as she was installed as the fourth president of the University of the Virgin Islands.
Another jogger veteran, Kathy Schlesinger, who strolled through the race last year seven months pregnant, came this year accompanied by her daughter Allison, 3, and her infant, Axel.
Attorney Karin Bentz was all smiles. "This is great," she said, after finishing third in the 40 to 49 group. However, this was small potatoes for Bentz, who about three weeks ago completed at 26-mile marathon in Texas. "Wow," she said, "I never thought I could do that."
Complete results of the race will be published in the Source as soon as they are available.
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