Racing to Put More People in the Pink

By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 8, 2008

More than 40,000 people turned downtown Washington into a sea of pink yesterday, joining an annual breast-cancer race that drew television actresses, diplomats, U.S. lawmakers and ordinary women grateful simply to be alive.

The Susan G. Komen National Race for the Cure raised $4.9 million from participants and sponsors, up from $4.4 million last year, organizers said. At least three-quarters of the funds will go to organizations doing breast-cancer research, education and treatment in the Washington area.

"There are very, very few who have not been touched in some way by breast cancer," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the crowd of survivors of the disease and their families, friends and supporters before the 5-K race.

Rice recalled her own mother's breast cancer diagnosis in 1970. "This little 15-year-old girl was suddenly very terrified," she said. "Thank God my mom lived another 15 years. . . . At least she got to see me as a full-grown woman at 30, a professor at Stanford."

Rice, in fuchsia track pants, white sneakers and a race T-shirt, led the crowd in warm-up exercises before organizers blew a horn at 8 a.m., sending a torrent of people in pink T-shirts coursing under a pink-balloon arch on Constitution Avenue.

Already, it was 75 degrees. Over the next few hours, 32 participants were treated for heat-related illnesses, including two who were briefly hospitalized, according to Alan Etter, a spokesman for D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services. But most participants stoically endured the heat, chugging water or ducking under misting tents along the route.

"You don't think about the heat," said Kristin Overstreet, 40, a recreation therapist from Alexandria who walked the course with her 66-year-old mother and 10-year-old daughter. "It's a lot better than going through chemo or radiation or having a mastectomy."

Several celebrities were on hand, including actress Gabrielle Union, a star of Tyler Perry's "Daddy's Little Girls," and Cynthia Nixon, known for her role as Miranda Hobbes on "Sex and the City." Some racers did double-takes at Nixon's pink T-shirt, which bore the word "survivor."

The actress was 40 when her breast cancer was diagnosed. Now, two years later, after undergoing treatment, she is free of the disease, she said.

"Whether you had cancer or are close to somebody who's had it, you want to do something," Nixon said after walking part of the course. Not only did participants want to raise money, she added, "you want to show your love and support."

More than 45,500 people registered to race, about the same as last year. Abiyot Abebe, of the Washington area, won in 15 minutes 32 seconds.

The race included about 1,600 teams, representing congressional offices, schools, companies, hospitals and even pubs. Thirty-one embassy teams participated, with the flags of France, Sweden, Germany and other countries fluttering above the runners.

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