Tens of thousands of women have signed up to run or walk along the Mall tomorrow in the Komen National Race for the Cure, hoping to raise awareness and money to combat breast cancer.
But this is not just about women.
Mark Edwards, 37, a consultant from Bethesda, plans to run to honor his mother, a breast cancer survivor.
Mike Sullivan, 39, a salesman from Alexandria, will be there because a friend's wife overcame the disease.
Olivia Crockett didn't. That's why her friend, Tony Avelino, will take part in the race.
"The women get the men out," said Avelino, 65, a retired account manager at General Electric, who lives in Northeast Washington. He said Crockett was his wife's college roommate and a family friend.
Breast cancer may be overwhelmingly a women's disease, but roughly one-quarter of those who have registered for the 15th annual Komen National Race for the Cure are men, said spokeswoman Jennifer Cawley.
The race is known for honoring breast cancer survivors, who turn out by the thousands in bright pink T-shirts. But this year, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, which sponsors the race, will pay special attention to supporters -- husbands, sons, daughters, friends and others who help people suffering through the disease.
"Survivors have told us for a long time, those people helped them get well as much as the [medical] treatment," said Cawley.
So at the 5k race's finish line at Freedom Plaza, volunteers will pass out embroidered pink-and-white ribbon badges, symbolizing the special relationship between people who have fought breast cancer and those who supported them. It is a variation on the pink interlocking ribbon that symbolizes breast cancer awareness.
"Breast cancer is a family disease, affecting not only the patient but also her family and friends," said Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) in a statement. Myrick is a survivor of the illness.
About 50,000 people are expected to sign up for the race, which starts at 8 a.m. tomorrow. Today is the final day to register; participants can do so in the main lobby of the Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Ave. NW, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The national race began in 1990, when three Washington women -- Gretchen Poston, social secretary in former president Jimmy Carter's administration, Marilyn Quayle, wife of the vice president, and Washington Post fashion editor Nina Hyde -- organized it. Poston and Hyde battled the disease and eventually died of it; Quayle lost her mother to it.
The race raises money for breast cancer research, screening, treatment and education. More than 7,500 people registered fo the 1990 race, raising almost $500,000.
Last year, more than 61,000 people from around the world registered, although many didn't turn out because of a downpour. The event nevertheless raised more than $2.6 million for cancer research and treatment. It is the most prominent of about 100 races held by the Komen Foundation each year around the country.
The national race continues to draw support from political leaders in Washington, as well as ordinary folk. The honorary chairs of the 2004 event are President Bush and his wife, Laura, as well as Vice President Cheney and his wife, Lynne.
Runners will include Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who plans to participate with his wife, Joanna, a clinical psychologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Breyer said he became interested in the disease through his wife's work. "Everybody's for this. It's not a gender-based interest," Breyer said yesterday. The justice, who has run the race several times, said of his running history: "I managed to finish."
More than 200,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year, and events are frequently held in Washington to promote a cure, from the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer to food-tastings to a recent wedding gown sale sponsored by Brides Against Breast Cancer.
While less than 1 percent of all breast-cancer cases occur in men, doctors and activists say men should be aware that they, too, could suffer from the disease. A half-dozen male breast cancer survivors are expected at the race, Cawley said.
At least $1 million raised at this weekend's event is to remain in Washington, Maryland and Virginia to support community-based outreach programs, organizers said. The District has the highest breast cancer mortality rate in the United States, according to organizers.
The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation was established in 1982 by Nancy Brinker in the name of her sister, who died of breast cancer at 36.
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.