About 750 hardy souls blended popular causes with running yesterday, donning jogging shoes under rainy skies for two unrelated but spirited races promoting women's business enterprises and an end to world hunger.
"I like running. I like the challenge of a race -- and I especially liked this one, 'cause it sounded like a good cause," said Iris Green, a Justice Department lawyer who raced in the 1981 D.C. Run to End Hunger at the Brightwood Recreation Center adjoining Rock Creek Park.
"We've run some distances before, but this is our big test," said her customary running companion, Richard Epps, also a lawyer at Justice. Both were among about 600 runners who opted to run the 10-kilometer course while about 100 mostly novice runners entered a less strenuous two-mile "fun run".
From older huffers and puffers to sleek veteran runners to young novices, the 700 runners raised more than $8,000 through registration fees, donations and pledges they obtained from outside sponsors, according to race organizer Becky Gatwood of Silver Spring. The race was sponsored by the local chapter of World Runners, a California-based group that says it has raised more than $600,000 nationwide through similar events.
"Something as mundane as running can generate a lot of interest in an issue," said Gatwood. "We draw runners and nonrunners to this race, and we've raised a lot of peoples' consciousness about the problem of hunger."
Gatwood said the proceeds were to be shared by several groups, including CROP, an international antihunger drive of Church World Services, and Bread for the City, an inner-city church-sponsored center at 1305 14th St. NW.
"I feel great," said the 10-kilometer winner, Tony Amabile, 20, a University of Virginia junior who has run cross-country and who broke the tape at 34 minutes 11 seconds. A pre-med student, Amabile said he customarily fasts during yearly antihunger events on campus, and said he thought yesterday's race was a "terrific idea."
The big surprise in the two-mile race was the third place finish of 11-year-old Gary Nerenberg of Rockville's Barnsley Elementary school, who finished ahead of nearly 100 older runners.
"We didn't even know he could run," said Gary's proud father, Lowell.
An hour earlier and a mile away in Rock Creek Park, Ron Nessen, one-time press secretary to former President Gerald Ford, blew the starting whistle to open the First Annual "Women Mean Business" Fun Run, sponsored by the Washington chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).
To show they meant business, about 50 contestants turned out at 8 a.m. in a light drizzle to run, walk and even push baby strollers for two miles through wet woods.
"I came out here to support the idea that women mean business," said Karen Maury, a Takoma Park real estate agent as she took a last drag on her cigarette before the race. "It's important to show that we mean business."
Lynne Merryfield, who runs Medical Group Management, a D.C. consulting firm, said NAWBO provides women with "networking" -- or business contacts with other business women that are sometimes difficult to develop in a male-dominated business world.
Yesterday's run, featuring new NAWBO T-shirts with interlocking dollar signs, was meant to create some "team spirit" among the 250-member organization, according to local NAWBO head Nancy Davis, who runs Davis Co., an executive search firm.
Mostly, the run was all just for fun, said Ginnie Maminski, who is coowner of Food for All Seasons and Reasons, a new Vienna catering firm. "I just drove back at 4 a.m. from New Jersey to get here to run in the rain," she said, "It's fun. We're crazy."