Did you know that Lung Cancer is the number one killer in Charlotte County? It's a harsh statistic to hear when you call Southwest Florida your home but it helps you understand why charity races are so important. Sometimes we get caught up in our goals, our personal records or age group rivalries and forget that at the end of the day this is a race to raise money that will help save lives.
The Southwest Florida Lung Cancer 5K attracted 33 teams, 165 timed runners and a score of untimed runners and walkers. Thousands of dollars were raised for the Lung Cancer Research Council all of which will benefit this worthy cause.
The pageantry of the day was fitting. Runners gathered in front of the stadium where a huge American flag hung from the extended ladder of a fire truck. A bagpiper played patriotic tunes as the color guard marched in time. Politicians and sponsors made proclamations and gave thanks. Prayers were spoken for those still in the fight and silence was given for those whose fight was over.
The most unique sights and sounds came from the Charlotte Warriors cheerleaders. Dressed in bold blue uniforms complete with pom poms, these energetic young ladies cheered the runners at both the start and finish of the race.
Now to the winners! Bradenton's Mickey Hooke won the overall men's category in dramatic fashion. Mickey is 52 years old and he aced the race with a time of 17:54. Astonishing! The ladies overall was taken by North Port's rising star Kathy Hendricks at 21:52.
This was a race dominated by the ladies as the three largest age groups were all female. Randi Lynn Huber (25:12) took the 40-44 group which had 15 runners, Lori Vasquez (24:07) took the 45-49 group ahead of 16 others and Susan Coldiron (30:25) took the 50-54 group which had 14 competitors.
While the turn out might have been a little smaller than last year, the spirit remained vigilant. Some causes demand every ounce of strength that a person can muster, this is one of those causes. If you ever doubted that fact you only had to listen to the stories of the survivors, some who never showed any symptoms to indicate that this type of cancer was sneaking up on them. Or on this day you could read the signs that lined the finish inside the stadium, each in loving memory of someone who had lost their battle.
This is why this race matters. It's not for the times or the medals or the cheers, it is for the fallen. We can't bring them back but we can help the many who are determined to survive.
Find all of the race results and photos here: