Beach run takes new focus: resiliency

For 22 years, Homer’s annual Run for Women, later the Breast Cancer Run, has raised awareness of breast cancer. Sponsored by Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic, this year the annual August run supports another of its programs, youth services, with a new name, the Resiliency Run and Ride. The venue remains the same as last year, a beach run, walk or ride at Mariner Park on the Homer Spit.

Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic has three main programs: reproductive health care, women’s health outreach and youth services. The Resiliency Run and Ride will raise funds for one youth service, the R.E.C. (Resource Enrichment Co-Op) Room.

“I think it’s a valuable service that we do with youth outreach and providing a safe place for youth,” said KBFPC board vice president Mary Lou Kelsey.

The Resiliency Run and Ride starts at 9 a.m. Aug. 30 at Mariner Park, a time set to take advantage of a minus 4.2 foot tide. The run and ride includes 1 kilometer or 5 km loops. People can walk, run, push strollers or ride bikes. Cycle Logical will have fat tire bikes to rent at a reduced rate with a donation. The event starts with a yoga stretch and includes activities like hooping or Frisbee games along the way. There also will be a Zumba session at the end.

The theme of the run and ride, resiliency, refers to a new concept in coping with adverse life experiences like breast cancer. R.E.C. Room peer educators Lilli Johnson and Jonas Noomah have been working with the Promoting Health Among Teens, or PHAT, program. PHAT was part of a grant to test the effectiveness of peer-to-peer education. The R.E.C. Room recently received a TUPP, or Teen Unintended Pregnancy Prevention, state grant that will continue peer education, this time in the schools.

Through the R.E.C. Room, Johnson and Noomah have become advocates and teachers of resiliency. Noomah and other PHAT members have even written a guide to teaching resiliency to teens, still in a rough draft.

Johnson describes resiliency as “the ability to keep going with your life even though you’ve gone through tough times and trying to create a more positive path for yourself.”

“It’s hard,” she said. “But if you talk about it, you’re already resilient.”

The idea of resiliency came about from studies on the effect of adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, on youth and adults. Those experiences can include things like poverty, domestic violence and growing up with substance abuse. Mobilizing for Action and Partnership’s South Kenai Resiliency Coalition has been advocating for addressing ACEs through promoting resiliency.

“What the ACEs study found is if some of the ACEs were reduced, we would see huge reductions in health problems all across the board,” Noomah said.

But sometimes adverse experiences can’t be avoided.

“Building resiliency so those ACEs have less impact is the next best thing,” Noomah said.

That can be done in a lot of ways, like building relationships.

“The more supportive relationships you have in your life, the more connected you are in your community — those are factors that have been shown to be resilient,” Noomah said.

Resiliency also can be developed by things like taking a beach walk, Noomah said.

“The sunlight you’re getting, the vitamin D your body is making with that sunlight, the fresh air you’re breathing. Maybe the smell of the sea reminds you of happy memories of your childhood,” he said.

Exercise can help with resiliency, too, and a group run can help even more.

“The great thing about the run is not only do you get more exercise, you’re becoming more connected to the community. Feeling like you belong somewhere is another connective factor,” Noomah said.

Noomah leaves this week for college, and Johnson will take over from him as lead peer educator at the R.E.C. Room. She’ll do a talk on resiliency at the run.

“Most of us are resilient already. One of the reasons we have to spread this message is sometimes you don’t believe you’re resilient,” Noomah said. “Sometimes you don’t think you’ll get through it. We’re just trying to help you believe that you can and give you some strategies.”

Kelsey said that Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic will do a breast cancer campaign in October during breast cancer awareness month. That will include the flying of pink flags by local businesses as an expression of support for awareness and breast cancer victims.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at