Survivors and Supporters Drawn to National Race to End Women’s Cancer 8K

By Mollie Zapata
Washington, DC
November 6, 2011
For the Washington Running Report

More than 2,200 people from 34 states plus the District of Columbia gathered to show support, raise money, and compete in the National Race to End Women’s Cancer 8K and 1 Mile Walk in Washington, DC on Sunday, November 6, 2011. The event, in its second year, marks the 20th anniversary of the Foundation for Women’s Cancer and raised funding to prevent, detect, treat, and defeat cancers unique to women.

Chris Juarez, 41, of Alexandria, VA, dominated the race, leading the field by more than a half-mile, winning in 26:13.

“The race felt comfortable, I ran 23 [miles] yesterday,” explained Juarez who used this race in preparation for the upcoming Philadelphia Marathon.

As with so many in the crowd, Juarez had a personal connection to the cause. “My mom is a breast cancer survivor, 17 years,” he said.

Second and third in the men’s race went to Diaa Nour, 31, of Washington, DC who finished in 29:21 and Jon Elvrom, 38, of Seattle, WA following in 30:04.

Michelle Cunningham, 36, of Centreville, VA won the women’s race in 32:57. Her running accomplishment was made even more impressive by the fact that she is a cervical cancer survivor.

“I want to show everyone that not only can you survive cancer, but you can thrive,” said Cunningham who had surgery in 2009. She crossed the finish line with a glowing smile on her face.

“A win is always special,” she said. “But this race is so much more meaningful to me.”

Phoebe Markle, 27 of Alexandria, VA finished soon after Cunningham in 33:10. Arlington’s Caitlin Murphy, 26, took third place in 34:42.

The race pavilion included a survivors’ tent where those who had experienced cancer first hand were encouraged to make signs. Posters lined the tent with statements: “Running in memory of Joan Lyons,” “Lydia’s Legacy,” “Cindy, we wish you were here. We love you!”

One mother made a sign for her daughter, who was an ovarian cancer survivor of 13 years. “There is no detection method and we need one now to save lives,” she said. “I was here when they had the first race and I’ll be here every year so that we can have more survivors.” Both women participated in the 1 mile walk this year.

Before the race started, runners, survivors, and supporters gathered in front of the stage and the announcer asked, “Who can say they’re here because this [women’s cancer] has touched them directly?” Hands all over Freedom Plaza raised and a cheer went through the crowd.

At 9:00 a.m. they took off down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the Capitol – running, walking, jogging, and rolling (stroller-pushing parents were a common sight at this family-friendly event) a new course for this year that went by the Capitol, Smithsonian Museums, and within sight of the Washington Monument.

In addition to individual runners, there were 50 teams entered. Jennifer McDonald of Catonsville, MD noted, “It was so cool to see the teams supporting each other through the race. The way the course was set up, you got to pass your teammates a lot and cheer.” McDonald is studying oncology, and ran on the neon t-shirt-clad, “Team Rock.”

“Every time I see a survivor finish, I tear up. This race is such an inspiration,” said McDonald.

The tone of the event was much more supportive than competitive. No age group prizes were offered since the emphasis was on survivors. In all, 47 women’s cancer survivors, aged 27 to 60, completed the 8K.

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