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Amidons a family that runs together

The extended Amidon family of New Port Richey and Hudson is ready to toe the line on July 4 in Dunedin for the annual Kiwanis Mease Midnight Run.

In all, eight members of Wayne and June Amidon's family will participate in either the 10-kilometer event running into Honeymoon Island State Park, or the 3K, which starts at 12:08 a.m.

"My husband and I started doing it about five years ago to join in with our children and grandchildren," said Mrs. Amidon, 76, a resident of New Port Richey via Kankakee, Ill. "Our kids started it so we thought it would be fun if we all did it. Afterwards, we stay to see if anyone earned an award."

Besides Mr. Amidon, 76, who will do the 3K (1.86 miles), their son Geoffrey and daughter-in-law Julie of Hudson will run the 10K (6.2 miles). She turned 40 this year and is in a better position to earn a top-five award in her new 40-44 age division.

Their children, Sean and Douglas, will do the 3K. Doug Amidon, 44, a New Port Richey attorney, and his wife Chris, 39, will run the 3K.

Wayne Amidon, patriarch of the family, isn't concerned about qualifying for an age-group award. "I usually come in near the bottom of the field," said the retired accountant. "But I still enjoy it because it's a family event. That's the main reason we do it. The humidity usually isn't that bad at that hour of night and it's definitely a lot cooler."

The number of participants is expected to exceed 1,000 this year. Last year a total of 998 registered for the Midnight Run, but pre-registrations are running nearly 100 ahead of last year at this point, reports race registrar Joe Garrison of the Dunedin Kiwanis Club.

Registration forms are available at the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce on Main Street. The cost is $10 in advance; $12 on site the night of July 3. Pre-registered runners are eligible for drawing awards ranging from hotel stays to restaurant gift certificates.

Judy Mercon of Clearwater will be going for an unprecedented sixth consecutive win in the women's division of the main event. A 36-year-old fitness instructor, Mercon won last year in 37:12. She holds the women's course record for the 15-year-old race, 36:23, which she set in 1990.

The defending men's champion, Ray Wunderlich of Treasure Island, is doubtful about going for his third straight win due to the recent aggravation of an Achilles' tendon. He won last year in 32:28 and in 1993 in 31:36.

The men's course record is held by former Clearwater resident Irv Batten. He won the race in 1985 in 31:05. He is currently teaching and coaching high school cross country in South Carolina.

Heading north: Not all Pasco runners are heading to Dunedin for the Midnight Run.

For reasons similar to the Amidons', Zephyrhills City Manager Nick Nichols and his wife Lenore will be going to Atlanta for the annual Peachtree Road Race. Their son Gus, 27, and daughter Donna Nichols, 31, of Atlanta also will be in the field of some 50,000.

"There's no way we can stay together up there," said Nichols, 61. "The course is too crowded. But we get together at the end with friends at Donna's afterwards for a picnic. The course is so crowded that the winner crosses the finish line before we cross the starting line. And it's usually hot and humid, but I'm acclimated coming from here."

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