WILKES-BARRE — April Gabriel wanted to start 2018 on the right foot, so she laced up her sneakers and joined a group of runners for the Wyoming Valley Striders annual New Year’s Day training run at Kirby Park on Monday.
The fact temperatures hovered in the teens and a cold, crisp wind blew over the Susquehanna River levee did not deter her or any of the other 50 runners from completing their first miles of the year.
“We wear lots and lots of layers,” the 36-year-old Wilkes-Barre resident said with a smile.
Gabriel completed just over two miles.
“They can run as much as they want,” Linda Wojnar, the secretary for the Wyoming Valley Striders, said. “Attendance has been increasing over the past couple years.”
The Wyoming Valley Striders is a running club based in Mountain Top. The group hosts a variety of events during the year, Wojnar said.
The goal of the 33rd annual New Year’s Day run is to provide area runners their first training run of the year, while giving them a chance to socialize with people with similar interests, Wojnar said.
“You don’t have to be a member to participate in New Year run,” Wojnar said.
Runners met in Kirby Park’s parking lot, signed in and were off jogging through the snow-covered walkways at noon.
Wojnar and her father, Vince Wojnar, 80, who co-founded the New Year’s Day run, sat inside of Linda’s vehicle waiting to see the runners return to the refreshment stand.
He said the event began at Penn State Wilkes-Barre in Lehman Township but was moved to Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre when traffic in the Back Mountain community increased.
“I use to be able to do four to five miles,” he said.
Today, health issues prevent him from participating, but he still likes to greet the runners and see them off.
Vince’s presence means a lot to runner Jeff Baran, 57, of Bear Creek.
Baran, who has been a runner for eight years, received his first bit of racing advice from Vince.
“At my first race, he told me that someone will always finish in front of me and someone will finish behind me,” Baran said laughing. “To see him here is an inspiration.”
Baran and his girlfriend, Debbie Alunni, 66, of Jessup, had just completed a three-mile run.
“How can you not smile,” Alunni said. “Just look, everyone is smiling.”
Alunni, who has been running for nearly 35 years, looks forward to the New Year’s run every year.
“They are a great group of people,” she said.