THE winner of this year's reality television show The Biggest Loser: Challenge Australia has encouraged Wimmera residents to participate in the Wimmera Heart Challenge - Run for Russ.
Ararat resident Craig Booby - who won the competition after losing almost 80 kilograms in six months - will be among hundreds of participants to take part in the third annual Run for Russ in Stawell on August 10.
Mr Booby entered the five-kilometre run last year during his 'home town training' phase before the show's final weigh-in in October.
"Participating in Run for Russ last year gave me a great goal to work towards," Mr Booby said.
"I ran more than 12 kilometres a night for two weeks leading up to the event and ran the whole way on the day.
"It was a great way to show my mate Kym, who entered me in The Biggest Loser, just how far I'd come during the three months in The Biggest Loser house."
Since the show ended Mr Booby has maintained a regular running routine and has competed in several charity fun runs, including the Run for Kids and Mother's Day Classic in Melbourne.
"I was once told that the heart is like a bike pump. The more pressure you put on it the less life it has.''
Wimmera Heart Challenge - Run for Russ founder and organiser Jackie Peacock said she was thrilled Mr Booby and a group of his family and friends were taking part this year.
"Without a doubt, Craig and his fellow contestants from Ararat were an inspiration on the show," Ms Peacock said.
"We hope Craig's story can encourage people of all ages, sizes and fitness levels to get involved with this year's Run for Russ.
"You can enter the five-kilometre run or walk, or the 10-kilometre run, giving you plenty of time to set realistic goals for yourself.
"Ultimately, we just want people to get more mobile for the benefit of their heart health and to also get checked by their GP as a preventative measure."
Mr Booby agreed heart health should be a priority for everyone.
"I was once told that the heart is like a bike pump," he said.
"The more pressure you put on it the less life it has. Heart attacks can happen to anyone. I'd encourage everyone to eat better and get some exercise. You don't have to run a marathon straight away. Start by just walking to the corner of your street."
Proceeds from Run for Russ go towards increasing heart health education in the Wimmera.
Ms Peacock said people could visit www.heartchallenge.com.au to register or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0409<2009>972<2009>457 for more information.