Washington, DC
Dogs were welcome at the Prevent Cancer 5k. Photo: Julie Tarallo
Dogs were welcome at the Prevent Cancer 5k. Photo: Julie Tarallo

The message to participants in Sunday’s Prevent the Cancer Walk/Run 5K was simple: get healthy and get tested.

According to the American Cancer Society, Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the U.S. More than 1.6 million people will be diagnosed with cancer and approximately 500,000 will die from cancer in 2013. Further, the World Health Organization estimates that nearly one-third (30 percent) of all cancer cases can be attributed to unhealthy lifestyle choices such as tobacco use, poor diet, and physical inactivity.

The Prevent Cancer Foundation’s 5th annual untimed 5k convened runners of all abilities to engage in physical activity and learn about strategies for reducing the risk of developing cancer. Starting and ending at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., the course followed the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail with views of the Southwest waterfront and U.S. Capitol in the distance.

After the race, runners were invited to take pictures with the Nationals’ president mascots and practice their swings in the team’s official batting cages. Participants were also encouraged to view several booths around the park featuring free health screenings and procedures including blood pressure tests, skin cancer assessments, and flu vaccinations.

Jim Wood, managing director of external affairs for the Prevent Cancer Foundation, said the race is the Foundation’s premier event to drive its mission of “saving lives through prevention and early detection.”

“Even a small amount of daily activity – running or walking – will reduce cancer risks,” Wood said. “We are a mission-driven organization, so this event is all about health and wellness and getting active.”

Wood estimated that nearly 150 teams from around the area participated in the fun run and walk, making this year’s event the biggest yet. Participants contributed more than $140,000, which will support the Foundation’s research, education, community outreach, and patient advocacy activities.

Teams consisted of businesses, families, and groups of friends – all running to commemorate someone close to them affected by cancer.

David Barmore and Zach Olson of Washington, D.C. joined colleagues from the Podesta Group to raise money and support cancer prevention awareness.

“It was fun to get up early on a Sunday and do something healthy for a good cause,” said Barmore. He also ran for his late grandfather who passed away from cancer.

Olson was joined by his four-month pregnant wife, Emily, who completed the entire 3.1 kilometers with ease. Emily expressed the importance of maintaining a healthy weight and credited her success in the fun run to frequent swimming and jogging sessions.

Katie and Ryan Connolly and their three kids Addyson, Haydin, and Emma of Vienna, sported “Cancer Conquers” tees during the race. The family stuck together on course, running as part of Prevent Cancer 5K Chair Allison Hutchins’ team, and said they were looking forward to getting out on the Nationals’ field for batting practice.

George Washington University students and members of Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed service-driven fraternity, Beth Stradder, Jen Muething and Patton Linder, encouraged six peers to run the race as a way to raise money for cancer research and prevention. Each student ran for someone they know who has been diagnosed with cancer.

“It’s a cause that’s really important to us since we all know someone who has been affected by it,” Stradder said. The group will also organize a team for the American Cancer Society’s annual Relay for Life to raise money in the fight against cancer.

Other runners credited the event as a motivator to get in shape. Lauren Phillips of Washington, D.C. said she gained weight after graduating from high school and recently developed a stringent exercise and diet routine to shed the extra pounds. Phillips signed up for the race with friend Daenia Peart, also of D.C., as a reminder to keep up with daily runs.

Runners left with a wealth of important health information as well as a variety of cancer prevention tips. How can you take steps to reduce your risk of cancer? The Prevent Cancer Foundation explains four simple steps can significantly help:

  • Eat healthy
  • Be active
  • Don’t smoke
  • Get screened

To learn more about the Prevent Cancer Foundation and for more information about cancer prevention, visit: http://preventcancer.org/.

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Andrea Meuser starts to air things out as she adds to her lead in the Super H 5k. Photo: Charlie Ban
Andrea Meuser starts to air things out as she adds to her lead in the Super H 5k. Photo: Charlie Ban

Finishers of the 10th running of MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital’s (NRH) Super H  5k had more than one reason to celebrate on Sunday. Their participation and fundraising contributions will benefit MedStar NRH’s community-based athletic programs for disabled adults and children.

The race kicked off at 8 a.m. outside of Tysons Sport & Health in McLean, Va. in perfect low-60 degree temperatures. Winding around Tysons Corner, the course eventually looped onto a rolling route 684 and finished back in front of the sports complex.

Wade Harris of Herndon captured first place after out-clipping second-place finisher and early-race leader Ted Poulos of McLean in a sprint-to-the-finish. Harris steadily reined in Poulos over the final stretch, finishing in 19:36.

Andrea Meuser, who hails from Germany and resides in Vienna, easily won first in the women’s division and finished eighth overall in 20:59. A 2:59-marathoner and 2014 Boston Marathon qualifier, Meuser bided her time behind the early leader – who had two dogs in tow – before she dropped the hammer at the mile marker.

But for Meuser, the ultimate prize was supporting her son Alex, who participates in MedStar NRH’s community programs and competed in the race’s wheelchair division. Making it a real family affair, Alex’s dad, Thomas, ran as a member of the race’s corporate sponsor, Volkswagen Group of the America, which is headquartered in Herndon.

Thomas was one of several Volkswagen employees who came out to benefit the cause. Carsten Krebs, a communications specialist at Volkswagen, estimated that more than 100 Volkswagen workers – a whopping 20 percent of the company – participated in or raised money for the race. “It’s a great thing to do for charity, and it’s also a great way to engage employees,” he said.

MedStar NRH employees also turned out with enthusiasm. Catholic University senior and MedStar NRH intern, Kaitlin Ekert convinced her boyfriend Ryan Michael to run the road race.

“It’s a great way to come out and advocate for people with disabilities,” Ekert remarked of her first 5k. Despite finding the hills “challenging,” she and Michael are both eager to train for and compete in more.

The real stars of the day were MedStar NRH’s program participants, who completed the course in wheelchairs and hand cycles, and with prosthetic limbs. They navigated the difficult course while onlookers and fellow racers cheered them on.

“It’s amazing to watch them get up those hills,” said Walter Beckwith of West Palm Beach, Florida. Beckwith ran as part of the unofficial “Team Dave,” a group supporting a friend Dave Cohen, who finished the wheelchair race in 48:02. Despite having after completed the Bug Eye Triathlon in Cambridge, Maryland just one day prior, Beckwith was encouraged by “the great weather and the great cause” and finished in a respectable 24:48.

Dana Crisan, vice president and chief philanthropy officer of MedStar Health and one of the race’s lead organizers, recruited her daughter Killian to come out and support the cause. The pair sported matching pink tops and said they were motivated by the disabled participants and spectators’ cheering. Both hope this will be just the first of many road races together.

For others, the race offered an opportunity to celebrate their own health. MedStar NRH physical therapist, Katie Bryson of Arlington ran to support her patients, and also felt fortunate to be able to compete pain-free. As collegiate field hockey player at Misericordia University, Bryson developed serious back problems, which doctors said could have caused paralysis. She kicked it in the final stretch to finish in 29:01.

“I didn’t stop to walk once,” she said.

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