THREE GEN, 10K: Family gets in shape to walk the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k

Last year, Anton Van Peppen, a long-time Chester resident, was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes during a May visit with his doctor. A few days later, he celebrated his 50th birthday by filling out a gym membership form.

Van Peppen, a project manager for a construction company out of Denver, has fought a “weight problem” for most of his life and has only recently come to accept exercise as a friend – and not a vicious enemy.

“I just finally decided on a lifestyle change in the way I eat and the way I exercise,” he said. “… It was just something I had to do.”

Nearly a year later and Van Peppen’s passion to live a healthier life has yet to extinguish; in fact, he’s even running a marathon – the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k – with two family members in Richmond this Saturday. Now Van Peppen has people pushing him to continue with his new lifestyle.

“It was my daughter’s idea,” said Van Peppen. “She got everybody going on this.”

In mid January his daughter, Nora Lee, 13, decided to run in the 10k and persuaded her father to join her. Her school, Moody Middle in Glen Allen, encouraged their students to partake in the marathon since a high number of student participation in it could land them additional funding.

Recognized as one of the best running races in the country by USA Today, the 10k is partnered with the VCU Massey Cancer Center and 100 percent of the money raised for the event benefits the center and cancer research.

This fact then caught the eye of Van Peppen’s father, Jan, 79, once a Chester resident now retired from Honeywell, and teamed up with the other two.

“One of the things that sold us on doing this particular race was that it helped the Massey Cancer Center,” said Jan, who brought the soccer program to Thomas Dale years ago. “I also thought it was a great idea to do it as a family.”

Only, the family wasn’t quite in ideal shape for the 10k and knew that training for their first was inevitable.  Luckily for them the event has also partnered with Richmond-area YMCAs, offering a Richmond-area YMCAs, offering a training program each year to help people prepare for the 10k.

Together they spent 10 weeks training with others in the program at the Chester Family YMCA, meeting throughout each week with other members of the program. They started with 1 mile, working up to 6.5 miles recently.

“It’s been a really good thing,” he said. “And it’s so nice when you’re out there with the training team and there are just a lot of people in that group that are trying to get control of their lives and their health, and it’s very encouraging to see that.”

The family matriarch, Marelene Van Peppen, supports what the three are doing and approves their efforts.

“Actually, I think it’s pretty tremendous that they’re all involved in this, and I’m looking forward to seeing them finish and have a good time,” she said.

In the beginning, Jan was skeptical about his son’s health in completing the 10k, but “he’s worked his way through all the preparations and training, so he’s going to do fantastic,” he said.

Since his diagnosis, Van Peppen’s blood-sugar and cholesterol levels have decreased and he has lost about 35 pounds. Movement is easier, energy is up and many other related problems have gone away, he said.

“I just recently went back to my doctor and she couldn’t believe the changes,” he said. “She wanted me to tell her exactly what I had done so she could tell other patients what to do.”

The marathon will be this Saturday, April 2. The family will only run/walk a few miles this week as they plan to stay as fresh as possible for the 10k. Their “wave” of runners will be departing from Broad Street a little after ten that morning, but expect themselves to be scattered due to their difference in paces.

When asked if they will do the 10k next year, Van Peppen replied with, “We’ll see how it goes.

“…We’re not trying to make a statement. I think we’re just trying to improve our own quality of life in a way. “This is not the end, it’s just the beginning,” he said.

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