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The Long Road

Main Street Mile turns 10


While most of us try to avoid stereotyping, there are certain trends that are hard to ignore, like the fact that most men avoid seeing a doctor for regular checkups and the fact that most men are competitive creatures.

For the past 10 years, the organizers of the Main Street Mile have used the latter to help deal with the former--namely, using a road race to promote men's health.

"We're the one time a lot of these guys are doing anything medical," said Ryan Canning, race founder and executive director. "We were seeing guys who hadn't seen a physician in 15 years."

The Main Street Mile started as a way to get men screened for prostate cancer, since roughly one in six will get the disease. The program worked by using the run and business partnerships to fund a mobile screening program that took the effort into both rural and urban areas.

During the past decade, the event has helped to provide more than 4,200 prostate cancer screenings for men across Southern Idaho.

"This year really brought a lot of things back home," Canning said, "things like that, when I start seeing those numbers."

But the program has evolved over the years, slowly morphing into not only a prostate cancer awareness program, but one focusing on overall men's health. This year will be the first time organizers widen screenings to include a full cardiac risk assessment, as well as a general health screening.

"It's a much broader picture of that man's health," Canning said.

The program is also increasing its impact through its partnership with Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center. In the past, participants were simply given their results and left to take the next step--if necessary--on their own. But this year, Saint Al's nurses are able to follow up with any results that land outside what is considered normal and healthy, offering guidance and advice.

This ability to educate and guide is a big step in the direction of what the American Urological Association recently released in a report--specifically that the association doesn't support mass prostate screenings since the events don't offer the kind of education and discussions that one-on-one visits with doctors can.

The pronouncement by the AUA was a harsh blow for Canning and the Main Street Mile, which had been built around the idea of large-scale screenings.

But a shift in thinking was already under way. Last fall, the Main Street Mile began a pilot program offering the expanded screenings to work out the details. The organization also parked its mobile services for the time being, in favor of working with corporate sponsors to offer screenings to employees and their family members.

Canning admitted that this is a bit of a learning year for Main Street Mile. Ultimately, though, he said the goal of getting the screenings into more rural and isolated communities remains.

"We're trying to figure out how we can do this effectively," he said. "We do this because there's an importance to it."

For now, the most effective way is to work with corporations to offer more targeted screenings. Canning is quick to bring up the fact that even among men with health insurance, less than half get regular physicals.

He admits that despite the success of the Main Street Mile, it's always been a bit of a struggle to push the cause of men's health into the local spotlight, especially in comparison to the massive success of women's health initiatives like the Komen Race for the Cure.

But the race has earned a place in the hearts of Boiseans. In the past, the event was held on a Friday evening, but this year, activities have been moved to Saturday, June 22, in an effort to make it easier for more people to participate and simplify the battle with the evening commute.

The race has also been shifted a few blocks to the east along Main Street, now occurring between Third and Sixth streets rather than the more congested Fifth to Eighth streets.

The streets will be closed beginning at 5:15 p.m., when a beer garden and six area food trucks will roll in--also a big change for the race and a nod to its 10th anniversary.

The first race will begin at the starting line near Fourth Street at roughly 6:15 p.m., with the Beauty and the Beast race for men and women age 40 and older. The top 10 finishers will win prizes, as well as good-natured bragging rights.

The Bandanna Prep Mile is up next, followed by the popular Mayor's Mile, when Boise Mayor Dave Bieter leads a noncompetitive walk/run/stroll group through the streets.

At roughly 7:15 p.m. Boise's local mascots will take to the course for the Mascot Scamper (or stumble, depending on how good the mascot's field of vision is), followed by the roughest race of them all: the Meadow Gold Children's Half-Miler, in which children ages 10 and younger chase an ice cream truck through town.

First responders working in five-person teams will race next, with each team member carrying 35 pounds of equipment. The race schedule is rounded out with the Open Mile for competitive runners.

Registration can be filled out online or in person up until the start of the first race and costs $28 for adults or $10 for children running the half-miler.

But those not as keen on running can join in for free, watching all the action, as well as catching a free concert by Vicci Martinez following the races. The concert will begin at 8:15 p.m. near the intersection of Fifth and Main streets.

And while the event will end with a party, Canning is keeping things in perspective.

"If we can screen one guy, it's worth it," he said. "We've touched a lot of lives and put people in a better situation."