Monday, September 28, 2009

Race for the Cure keeps thinking BIG

Uptown Charlotte becomes a sea on pink on Saturday morning, when the 13th annual Komen Charlotte Race for the Cure sends thousands of runners and walkers down Tryon Street in the name of the cause.

I caught up with race chair Dena Deiger today to get info about the new event site and course, their plans for dealing with possible record crowds, and the special survivor-related happenings on tap.

Q. What's the record number of participants for the Charlotte event, and what are you guys looking at numbers-wise for Saturday?

Dena Deiger: We had 14,200 there last year, which was our record. We hope to have 15,000 this year – we need all the help we can to get to reach that number. ... There will be 800-plus survivors (running or walking).

Q. Tell me about the new course -- which starts and finishes in the heart of uptown -- compared with the old one, which started in Gateway Village. Why the change?

Dena: We have changed the course due to the communities’ support of this great cause. We had to move the expo and ceremony because we were outgrowing the Gateway Village area. In the offseason, we met with members of the city to determine where we could move the race and “grow into an area.” We chose this area because eventually the one parking lot will be a great park (Romare Bearden, in Third Ward) that will accommodate events like ours. In addition, we wanted to get a start line that was wider than two lanes. Although I don’t run often, I have done my best to educate myself on what makes a good 5K. One of those items is having a wide start line, along with not making too much of the course an out-and-back route, to help “thin” the crowd. I haven’t run it – nor do I think your fans would like to see that sight right now. I can tell you it has some points of interest along the way – the new museum and theater at the Duke campus on Tryon Street and the Panthers Stadium, to name a few.

Q. I haven't run it either, but we can see from the map that the start and finish set up several blocks apart. This just easier logistically because of the size of the crowds?

That is correct. We tried to flow out one side of the expo/stage and funnel back in the other. In addition, we are trying to get all participants across the start line as quickly as possible and not overlap the course in too many areas.

Q. Speaking of the crowds ... do you ever get complaints about congestion in the races? Last year, I heard from people who'd hoped to run the non-competitive event but were disappointed because the sheer volume of walkers made it a frustrating stop-and-go affair. As for the competitive 5K, I felt like runners did not line up as smartly as they do at other races (i.e. faster to the front, slower to the back).

We tried to alleviate the congestion with a three-lane start this year and the fourth lane open next year when the Duke building is done. We also hope that there will be enough room on the course (wider until Third/Fourth Street) that people will be able to get through the crowd. We do tell people that walkers should stay toward the back … we will make sure to make that announcement again.

Q. And because of the sheer size of the race ... in your opinion, should runners view this as a great cause and a shared experience first, and a race second?

Yes, especially because we hope to continue to grow this race over the years to fund finding a cure, it would be hard to say this is a race first … unless you consider this a race against time to find a cure. As you will see this year, we have taken into account competitive runner feedback to create a better experience for them.

Q. Also, considering the number of participants, how early should runners plan to arrive in order to have plenty of time to park, get their packets and/or chips, etc.?

The competitive runners go off at 7:25. If you are a competitive runner, you should have received your ChampionChip and your bib. Therefore, you will not have to pick it up. I would park outside the areas of the race or take the LYNX this year. I would suggest the runners get there 30 minutes early to find their way around.

Q. In what ways will runners be able to show their support for survivors in their lives, or honor loved ones who've lives were taken by the disease?

Many have formed teams and will be wearing their own personal team T-shirts. There will also be pink back signs ("In Memory of" and "In Celebration of") ... anyone can write their loved one's name on it, and safety-pin it to their shirt.

Q. What types of special ceremonies or activities are planned for survivors and/or others affected by breast cancer?

To start off the morning, there is a survivor village area where breakfast is available, and there will be a group survivor photo at 7:20 in survivor village. New this year, each survivor will get a ChampionChip to wear, and as they cross the finish line, their name will be recognized as a survivor. There will be a survivor recognition ceremony around 9 a.m., following the awards portion of our ceremony. All the survivors come up based on their number of years of survivorship, we will read a poem, have a moment of silence, and then let them release their balloons. The number of balloons each survivor is holding is based on the number of years they have been a survivor. This year, we made the switch to environmentally-friendly balloons and string!

Q. How much money does the Charlotte affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure hope to award this year, and how will the funds be used?

The Charlotte affiliate hopes to award $1 million in local grants. The grants cover education, screening, diagnostic treatment for women and men in our nine county service areas. In addition, 25 percent of the gross annual income of our affiliate funds research on a national level.

Q. Anything else you want to add?

I just want to thank all those that are participating and volunteering this year to make it a great experience for all. Hundreds of people volunteer their time to make this a successful race. As you all know, money is a lot tighter for people these days, but we must remember that breast cancer doesn’t care about that. It is more important now to raise funds to educate and fund mammograms and care for people that have to choose between buying food for their children, or visiting a doctor because they feel a lump.

* * *

Register for the Race for the Cure through Friday at the Komen Charlotte Web site. Through Friday, it's $30 for the noncompetitive run/walk and $35 for the timed/competitive 5K. There is no race-day registration available for the competitive 5K. All the details about the race and related events are here.


Anonymous said...

I was surprised to see the course move for this race this year. I really enjoyed the course beginning and ending in the Gateway Village area. But just as important is the overall logistics. There are so many non-runner related activities that larger space is required. This is much more than a race, it is an event. I can see if the race increases in size, that the organizers may want to use the convention center and have an expo. Continued success on the best cause for a run / walk that is held in Charlotte.

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of males have felt a little out of place or intimitated by this event. But then when you look at the cause, almost everyone has been touched by a relative, friend or co-worker. Those of us who are entered in the competitive run race need to remember that there are some races where you go to PR and this is not one of them. Sure you want to do your best, but don't forget the Cause. In addition, when the competitive
5K is over, I plan to stick around and cheer on the other runners and walkers who are here to raise money and remember those who can not be there. For many people this is their "marathon" and the culmination of many months of training to simply come out and walk or run a 5K.

Anonymous said...

Dena said...

"If you are a competitive runner, you should have received your ChampionChip and your bib. Therefore, you will not have to pick it up."

I registered online for this race several weeks ago. I didn't receive anything in the mail. Do I need to pick it up on a day before the race or what?

chupacabra said...

It was a great idea to mail the chips with the packets this year. I remember that being a bit difficult last year.

To the menfolk out there, please don't feel left out. This is a huge and important event and not a "chick thing" at all.

The first year running this my husband was afraid that he would be the only guy but when we got there he had a lot of company. I'm sure there are a lot of women out there who only do this event but if anything there is an appreciation there for the men who turn out to support the cause.

If you've never done this race you really should come check it out. It is a real show. I had a PR last year. I think it was because the entire race was lined up with bands, cheerleaders, well wishers, it was a real circus and I had so much fun I forgot I was tired and never slowed down.

This is my favorite race every year. I'm really looking forward to it.

Emily said...

To Anonymous post at 8:57am, if you registered after 9/8 then you may have missed the mail deadline. You can pick up your packet at Founder's Hall, Uptown Charlotte
on Wednesday, September 30 - Friday, October 2 from 11 AM to 6 PM.

Dena said...

To Anonymous post at 8:57, you can also pick up your chip on race day at 101 Independence Center (the corner of Trade and Tryon) starting at 6:30 am.

Anonymous said...

I don't think they should even have a competitive race for this event.There's entirely too many people to run a competitive race. You can make all the announcements you want, but there will still be walkers lined up with runners. This event is a runner's nightmare.