Race for the Cure runners brave soggy course, chilly weather

Saturday’s Race for the Cure was more like the “Race for the Brrr” after an early morning thunderstorm soaked the course, dropped temperatures into the 50s and left runners shivering in their shorts.

The event at Towne East Square, one of Wichita’s biggest and longest running 5K charity races, was eventually delayed on Saturday after organizers went back and forth about whether to cancel it. The competitive 5K race, scheduled to start at 7:45 a.m., had its start time moved to 8:30 a.m. because of lightning in the area, meaning that the competitive and non-competitive runners shared the course.

A wash-out was bound to happen eventually, said Lindsay Smith, the executive director of the Mid-Kansas Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the breast cancer-fighting organization that puts on the race. Smith, her hair dripping and her teeth chattering, said that in the 24 years that the race has happened in Wichita, the weather had never been so uncooperative.

“We’ve had rain, but I don’t think we’ve ever had it this bad,” she said. “We’ve been really lucky for a really long time.”

The rain will likely affect the amount of money the race raises this year, Smith said. Last year, when the weather was perfect, 9,500 people registered, and the race brought in around $500,000. As of Friday, 6,500 people had registered for the race, Smith said. She estimated final registration this year would be around 7,000.

“It’ll hurt our attendance,” she said. “We’ll miss out on people who would have come and registered this morning.”

Early morning reports about the status of the race were conflicting — mainly because organizers were conflicted, Smith said. The race’s policy is that it goes on rain or shine, but lightning will stop it. She and her colleagues were gathered at 6 a.m. to study the weather and learned that although there was lightning in the area, it was forecast to end quickly.

Around 7 a.m. on Saturday, when a parking lot near Towne East Square is usually shoulder-to-shoulder with racers wearing Komen’s signature pink, the crowd was light. Runners were huddled under tents and umbrellas, standing close together for warmth. A few heartier participants traveled from booth-to-booth, collecting plastic tambourines, reusable bags and other freebies from vendors, but the line was longest at the Starbucks tent. Nearby, a stage that usually holds Zumba teachers noisily leading the crowd through a pre-race warmup, was empty, silent and wet.

Just before 8:30 a.m., runners emerged from their tents, jumped over puddles and trudged through mud to get to the starting line. Many jumped up and down to stay warm as they waited, their chilly hands tucked up in their sleeves.

But as soon as the race started, the rain stopped. The first runner, Thomas O’Connell, crossed the finish line at 15:50.

Pre-race, runner Kathy Johns huddled under an umbrella with her friend, Dawn Carr. The lenses on her glasses were covered with water droplets, and both women wore plastic rain ponchos.

Johns said she was a little girl when she lost her grandmother, Susanne Sanseda, to breast cancer. Her grandmother was just 49 when she died.

Johns has always wanted to run the race, she said, but this was the first year her schedule allowed it. She and a group of friends met at the race, each wearing Susanne’s name on signs pinned to their backs.

Rain wasn’t going to stop them.

“This year, I just wanted to do it for Grandma,” Johns said.

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