By Liz Horton

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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — Members of the Junior League of Greater Fort Lauderdale are lacing up their sneakers and hitting the pavement to train for the 18th Annual Riverwalk Run, which will be held on April 14th at Huizenga Park in Fort Lauderdale.

“It’s a really great opportunity for you to meet a friend as well as get out there and improve your running time, explains chapter president,” Jill Banaszak.

This year The League is partnering with fitness store, Running Wild, to help members train for the upcoming race.

The Funky Fun Run Club meets each Thursday at Running Wild at 2563 East Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale for a quick stretch before running along the beach just as the sun is setting.  Then, they head to the Westin for a post-run happy hour.

“We reach out to everyone of all different abilities: walkers, your average runner, and elite runners so everyone feels welcome,” said Don Wennerstrom, owner of Running Wild.  “It’s about social interaction, something we are not doing enough of these days, and this event certainly brings people together to do that.”

Junior League Member Amanda Mitchell says the experience of connecting with other runners really motivated her.

“You can walk the entire way, you can run the entire distance, whatever distance you feel comfortable with,” she said.

With the support of other League members, Amanda found a new hobby, new friends, and improved her fitness, too.

Fellow League member Jacqueline Costoya agreed.

“I’m not a runner and so I’m not usually in this kind of area and I have been able to enjoy a new hobby and new friendships,” she said.

“I worked my way up to my first 7-mile bridge run and then after that to my first half, the Hollywood half, and it is just something I have continued doing and I really love it and I have created some wonderful relationships,” Mitchell said.

Those relationships, made through the Junior League, promote volunteerism, improving the community and developing the potential of women.

“As women it has been great because we have really built our relationships and that makes it easier when we get together to volunteer or to build ourselves professionally in the community,” Mitchell described.

All proceeds from the Riverwalk Run will go toward the Junior League of Greater Fort Lauderdale and their mission to give back to the community of Broward County.

Members of the League have been volunteering in Fort Lauderdale and the surrounding community for 80 years, and they continue to prioritize Childhood Fitness and Nutrition as well as Human Trafficking Awareness as top priorities.

“Obesity is a nationwide issue,” she said.  “It has been for a while and it will be going forward, and so this is our opportunity to combat that in a healthy way,” Banaszak explained.

Race participants have the option of choosing the 5k or 5-Mile route and may walk or run.  Children in strollers and pets are welcome.

“It’s really a wonderful morning and afternoon, right along the Riverwalk, through the beautiful Rio Vista neighborhood and not a lot of other runs go through that neighborhood,” Banaszak said.

If you would like to be a part of the big day and you are not able to attend, Banaszak says there are options for you to participate.  “You can be a virtual runner or you can come and join us for the post-race brunch,” she said.

It is about connecting with other women and the community, being the best version of yourself and being a humanitarian, and all are welcome.

“I didn’t know anyone when I joined and I was very pleasantly surprised that I was able to meet like-minded professional women who are really committed to bettering themselves and the community,” she said. “We have broken the mold, we are committed to a diverse and inclusive membership and I think it’s really important for everyone to give us a shot.”

For more information on the 18th Annual Riverwalk Run visit www.riverwalkrun.com and enter coupon code “MOVINGU” for $5 dollars off registration.

To join the Funky Fun Run Club you can find more details at www.runningwild.com

What is keeping you happy and healthy? Let us know what is Moving U at movingu@cbs.com for a chance to be featured!

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