In most cases, the landmark 10th staging of a successful local road race to raise money for a great charity would be cause for celebration rather than sadness.
This past Saturday morning, at the 10th – and final – Kidney Kare 5K Run / Walk and kids’ fun run, there was a little of both.
Ending its decade-long run, this staple of springtime in Carrboro is hanging up its running shoes, a victim of the proliferation of local races. Organizers admitted having heavy hearts, but they also shared a sense of pride in a history of a great event that has truly had an impact on health in North Carolina.
“We have mixed emotions, but there are just so many races now – and all for good causes,” UNC Cancer Center Director of Education Outreach Donna Harward said. “This race has been wonderful, but it’s just hard to compete with so many things going on.”
“I think, just in the Triangle this weekend, I counted 10 different events going on, which included six just today,” said Race Director Suzie Hosman, the UNC Kidney Center’s development officer, “and there’s even another 5K in Southern Village today.”
Starting from McDougle Middle School and run through the streets of Carrboro, the Kidney Kare series has helped to support programs at the UNC Kidney Center: the Kidney Education Outreach Program, the Patient Emergent Fund, and Kidney Transplant Awareness. The race has raised money for the Center’s outreach efforts across the state trying to encourage patients to ask, ‘Hey, Doc, how are my kidneys?’”
“This race has allowed us to provide 6,000 free screenings across the state in 46 different counties,” Harward said.
As with previous incarnations, the final race – fittingly on “Pi” Day: March 14, 2015 (3.1415) – amassed a tight circle of friends and like-minded advocates one final time.
“It has been (a close circle),” Hosman said. “That going away is what really gave me pause when I concluded – looking at the time and effort relative to the amount of money we raise – that we needed to start doing other things.”
Posting some impressive numbers with a top overall finish in the 5K was Carl Anstrom (18:22). He figured he needed to out-sprint Shan Guo (18:29) and Keith Gererden (18:56) to win.
“I went out too hard on a downhill course,” Anstrom said. “(Shan Guo) made up ground from mile two to three. I didn’t hear him at the two-mile marker, but by mile two-and-three-quarters, we were pretty much exchanging recipes. I was just able to hold him off.”
Also scoring a narrow victory was women’s victor Lisa Hecker (20:34), who just nipped second-place finisher Chris Tommerdahl (20:37). Kristin Allyre (21:10) was third.
“It was awful,” said a smiling Hecker, who has run nearly all 10 of the Kidney Kare races. “I was huffing and puffing ... knowing (Chris Tommerdahl) was right behind me. We started together, and she was right behind me the whole way.”
At this final Kidney Kare 5K, memories of the entire series were still plentiful.
“Suzie (Hosman) and I came to the UNC Kidney Center at the same time – around 10 years ago – and kidney disease awareness was so low nationally,” Harward said. “Plus, it was so prevalent in North Carolina, we wanted to do something locally, and because of her background as a triathlete, I said, ‘You could organize a run, Suzie.’ She’s been a real blessing to us, and beyond her job, she offered skills that went beyond those related to her professional skills.”
For Team Sami – now consisting of Dean, Jennifer, and Laurel Odom – memories of the series are bittersweet.
“Their daughter Sami Odom was born with a number of health issues, one of which was no kidney function,” Hosman explained. “She was unable to overcome all of those issues and passed away. She’d be five this year, but her mom and dad have been out every year supporting the event, working tirelessly with their 19-month old baby Laurel.”
“Sami was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2010,” Dean Odom said, “so we started participating in 2011 and have done it every year since. Crowder Construction that I work for has been incredibly supportive too. Sami only got to participate in one. ... Laurel just participated in her first.”
Hosman said there were many similar stories and salient memories connected to the race, but, overall, she’s enjoyed watching the circle of participants, volunteers, and organizers grow larger over the years.
“I’ll miss working with the volunteers, the Town of Carrboro, and getting to know the participants,” she said. “There’s always the emotional component, but you also have to be pragmatic. One of the things I’d thought about was that if I left the Kidney Center tomorrow, there’d be nobody to keep this going, and I’d rather end it on a good note with 10 really great, really solid years.
Hosman added that she’s proud of the impact the race has had however.
“Screenings are $15 per person and this race has paid for over 6,000 of them across the state,” she said. “And with the ‘Hypertension Belt’ running right through our state, our state is just covered up in kidney disease.”
Next, UNC Kidney Center event organizers will turn their focus to the Raven Rock Ramble bike rides at Harris County Lake Park in southwestern Wake County on May 3.
“The race director for that is David Cole,” Hosman said, “who actually received a kidney transplant about 13 years ago. All of his proceeds support out outreach program.”
Also, the UNC Kidney Center’s Annual Fund will continue to support the Emergent Need Fund.
Still, Hosman said it would be nice to regularly gather together the same local community members who have been introduced to the UNC Kidney Center through the Kidney Kare 5K over the past decade.
“I think it’s important for people to have a venue to celebrate their loved ones affected by kidney disease, to think about the ones they’ve lost, and to keep our message alive and going,” she said, suggesting a picnic next spring might be a great way to re-connect this stalwart circle of friends.
Perhaps a date near March 14 would still work. After all, what’s a picnic without Pi?