John Eldridge’s brother recently died of lung cancer and so on Saturday, surrounded by more than 300 people sharing a goal of helping those affected by the disease, the 5K race he participated in was simply a chance to appreciate being with his daughter and able to complete the course that wound through paths within sight of the Mendenhall Glacier.
“I’m not here to compete, I’m here to complete,” he said after finishing with a time somewhere in the low 30-minute range. “That’s what this is all about.”
A total of 312 people took part in either the 5K race or a two-mile walk during the 32nd Annual Beat the Odds: A Race Against Cancer event that started and ended at Kax̱dig̱oowu Héen Elementary School. The race is a fundraiser for Cancer Connection, which offers services such as monthly support groups and travel assistance for people needing treatment in Seattle, and typically raises about $20,000.
The event also featured information tables and other displays, where Eldridge and his daughter, Lisa, 21, obtained a pink cancer awareness t-shirt from a table with a donation jar. Eileen Hosey, Cancer Connection’s vice president and an eight-year survivor of the disease staffing the table, was also offering items such as hand-knitted hats made by local residents.
“They’re for people having chemo — or their heads are just cold,” she said.
Many people also picked up pink paper hearts at the table they wrote names on and wore during the event, to signify their support for loved ones afflicted with cancer. For Hosey that included herself and her two sisters who are also both cancer survivors — one for 25 years, the other for three months.
About 25% of the participants took part in the 5K race and, among those with competitive motives, Jesse Stringer of Juneau was the winner with a time of 18 minutes, 48 seconds, a short distance ahead of Shawn Miller in what both of them described as a close contest throughout. The fastest women’s finisher was Ruth Dwarshuis of Juneau with a time of 23 minutes, 56 seconds, in what she said was her first race of the season.
“It’s time for me to get back into shape,” she said, while acknowledging “I’ve been training a few weeks for this.”
More typical among the runners and walkers was Sarah Clark, who crossed the 5K finish line at some point well after the leaders while pushing a stroller with her 16-month-old daughter Faye.
“It’s our first 5K together,” the mother said. “It’s a good cause and I feel my daughter is at a good age where she’s good with the length of the course.”
Still, a non-competitive spirit time and time didn’t mean Clark didn’t have her own personal challenge to achieve.
“She’s an extra 26 pounds to be pushing,” she said of her daughter.