Tonight, Alzheimer’s Tennessee, a non-profit organization that helps Tennesseans living with dementia, holds their very first 5 kilometer race to raise funds and awareness for their cause. The race takes place at Lakeshore Park.
I have been running recreationally for about three years now. My first training runs took place at Lakeshore Park during the fall and winter. The area has several beautiful views of The Great Smoky Mountains, which runners and walkers must conquer steep hills to enjoy. Lakeshore contains old buildings reaching into the sky, monuments to Lakeshore’s original purpose as a mental health facility. My first few training runs at this place were cold, dark, and at times, spooky. The unique history of this park, the topography of the track, and the time of day that this race happens (in the dark of night), make it an appropriate spot for this Knoxville event.
Alzheimer’s is a HUGE problem. The New York Times, AARP, and The New England Journal of Medicine have published research identifying it as the most costly disease in America. To provide appropriate care for a person with Alzheimer’s disease is a challenge due to the large range of needs for people living with this disease. The duration of care needed for a person living with Alzheimer’s disease varies greatly. People can live for an average of 8 to 10 years after diagnosis. Studies by AARP show that family members caring for a person with Alzheimer’s typically experience more stress for a longer amount of time than caregivers of people with heart disease, strokes, and other conditions. Further complicating the fight against this disease is a lack of understanding about why this disease occurs. Currently, we are only able to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease once symptoms are present. By that point, it is too late to take preventative measures.
We do know that eating right and exercising reduce the risk of a person developing Alzheimer’s. This means that participants in tonight’s 5k get the added benefit of reducing their own risk, while raising awareness about the disease. Just like the dark spots in Lakeshore Park, the battle against Alzheimer’s has many unknowns. There is a stigma about Alzheimer’s and aging that makes people uncomfortable even discussing the subject. The goal of raising awareness about Alzheimer’s is truly an uphill battle. Tonight’s 5K course is in many ways a metaphor for the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, a hilly, dark, and challenging undertaking. The bright spot in all of this (besides bright paint, glow sticks, and flashlights) is that there is no one better prepared than Knoxville’s runners to take on such a challenge, and illuminate the cause of Alzheimer’s Tennessee.
Written by Dylan Adams