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On the right track

The 24th annual Spirit Run at Fashion Island Sunday brought family members together to celebrate healthy living.

March 26, 2007|By Kelly Strodl

Samantha Gangloff pushed herself across the finish line of the 2007 Spirit Run with a grin stretched across her reddened face, victorious. Finishing the one-mile run and shaving four minutes off her time, the 8-year-old from Anaheim Hills has come a long way from just a few years ago.

At 3, "Sammy" was diagnosed with leukemia. Dealing with the disease has had its rough patches, said her aunt, Catherine Giors. Steroids the doctors prescribed caused Samantha to gain extra weight and made her extremely tired.

"A lot of times she just couldn't even move," Giors said. "She learned to love to watch TV, and it's been a hard habit to break."

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But Sammy is better now and involved in cheerleading, swimming and running with her mom, Fran Gangloff, who pushes her daughter to get up off the couch and back on the track.

This week that has meant running in the 24th Spirit Run, an event known for supporting school funding while bringing runners of all ages to one course. Many families ran together, moms and dads side-by-side, pushing strollers or helping the kids by running with them along the way. More than 5,000 people came out for the event held at Fashion Island in Newport Beach.

The day began with a 10K run at 7:15 a.m. Events included a 5K walk and run, and eight children's races divided by age, each a mile long. Sammy ran at 10 a.m. finishing with a 12 minute, 26 second-mile — quite an improvement from her last run of 16 minutes, her mom said.

But Sunday was only practice for the blond curly-locked girl who has many more miles ahead of her.

This week Sammy began a five-week run for the YMCA Country Music Kids' Marathon that ends in Nashville on April 27. Each week she will run five miles at home. On the last night, in Tennessee, she runs 1.2 miles, completing a cumul- ative marathon distance of 26.2 miles one day prior to the Country Music Marathon on April 28 that her mom will run.

Gangloff believes her daugh- ter is up to the task. Sammy still thinks running can be difficult, but it's the little things that keep her on pace.

"If I'm on a track it's hard," Sammy said. "But if I'm outside like here, there's a lot of things to see."

Above all else, Sammy was positive that her mom would be there at the end cheering her on. "She tells me that I can do it," Sammy said.

"She's gotten a lot more active, but she still loves TV." Giors said.

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