Annual cancer awareness runs get a new course

Fund-raising events take place Saturday at Riverbend Elementary School

Posted: Friday, September 03, 2004

A problem with permits means there will be a new course for Saturday's "Beat the Odds" Women's Race Against Breast Cancer and the Prostate Cancer Run/Walk.

The two cancer runs will start and finish at Riverbend Elementary School this year because of better parking and fewer runners on the road. The prostate cancer run, which is for male runners only, starts at 8 a.m., with the breast cancer run, for female runners only, starting at 9 a.m.

"You have to have permits and DOT (the Alaska Department of Transportation) was worried about all the cars (parked) on Back Loop Road," "Beat the Odds" event organizer George Elgee said about the races' former start and finish point at Mendenhall River Community School. "This gets us to an area with better parking. And with the new course, the runners are never on the road and the walkers are on the highway for just 200 yards."

"It's safer for the participants," prostate cancer run co-founder John McConnochie said.

This is the 13th year for the "Beat the Odds" race and the ninth for the prostate run, and this is the first time the events haven't taken place at Mendenhall River Community School. They usually draw about 550-700 women and 100-150 men and raise money for the Southeast Alaska Cancer and Wellness Foundation. Last year's races raised about $15,000.

Elgee said this year there were more permits required for the events.

"I thought I was going into a mining operation," Elgee said. "We need all kinds of permits, even for using the bathrooms at Dimond Park and in the school, which we rent. ... The new location will give us a little more public exposure. We won't be out on Back Loop, and there are more places where people can see the runners."

This year's courses are 5 kilometers for runners and 2 miles for walkers. Both start at Riverbend School's covered area and cut across Dimond Park to the hikers' bridge that takes people to Kaxdigoowu Heen trail (the Brotherhood Bridge trail). The runners will turn right, follow the trail to its end return to the school by the same route. The walkers will turn left and follow Glacier Highway and Vintage Boulevard on the way back to the school.

The new course isn't the only change this year.

Elgee said breast cancer survivors involved in the race will be given white hats with pink ribbons, which will make it easier to see the impact breast cancer has on a community. Participants will still be able to wear red hearts honoring friends and relatives who have had cancer.

This year's "Beat the Odds" race is dedicated to former Auke Bay Elementary School teacher Bryn Nelson, who died in July following a recurrence of breast cancer that spread into other organs. Nelson was a frequent prerace speaker at the "Beat the Odds" races. Tish Griffin-Satre, a breast cancer survivor, is in charge of this year's speakers, and survivor Sandy Hicks also will talk to the participants.

Various cancer groups estimate that one out of every nine women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lives. The American Cancer Society's Web site said about 216,000 women will be diagnosed in 2004 with invasive breast cancer, and about 40,000 will die from it - though the numbers of women dying are dropping because early detection and improved treatment. It also said there are more than 2 million women living in the U.S. who have survived the disease.

McConnochie, who founded the prostate cancer run with his wife Peggy Ann, won't be able to watch Saturday's race because of another commitment. Instead, Lou Edwards and Fred Baxter will serve as race directors. Edwards, who has been director for the Tour of Juneau cycling race the last few years, was treated for prostate cancer almost exactly a year ago.

"We want to make certain that men are getting screening at the right ages, because prostate cancer is a lot more treatable when it's caught early," McConnochie said.

McConnochie said prostate cancer's risks are comparable for men as breast cancer's risks are for women, with about one man out of every nine being diagnosed with prostate cancer. He said this year there will be about 230,000 new cases in the U.S., with about 200 of those in Alaska.

"It accounts for 30 percent of all male cancers, and 13 percent of all male cancer deaths," McConnochie said.

The Southeast Alaska Cancer and Wellness Foundation, the recipient of funds raised by the races, provides information and treatment help for local patients. The group's Web site is http://www.seacwf.org, and it also has a 24-hour information line at 796-2273 in Juneau and 1-866-376-2273 from the rest of Southeast Alaska.

• Charles Bingham can be reached at charles.bingham@juneauempire.com.



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