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Amazing Race

Annual Komen Event Draws Thousands to D.C.

When Rana Kahl first ran the Susan G. Komen National Race for the Cure in 1997, she did it as a supporter and because she thought “it was a good thing to do.” This year, Kahl will participate in the 5K walk/run as a breast cancer survivor.

The event, which this year takes place June 2, has become a family tradition, Kahl said.

“You’re only as strong as people around you,” Kahl said. During the race, “you feel great to see all these people supporting you.”

The 18th annual Komen National Race for the Cure has grown into one of the most well-known walk/run events that takes place in Washington, D.C. The race has attracted about 50,000 participants around the country and has raised millions of dollars for breast cancer research and health programs. Past events have drawn support from prominent D.C. figures including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Participants sign up in teams or as individuals, many of whom are survivors or know someone touched by the disease. Past teams have represented the offices of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.).

During the 5K walk/run through the National Mall, survivors don pink shirts while other participants can wear shirts decorated for loved ones.

“It’s sad to see all these people in pink shirts, this shouldn’t have to happen,” Kahl said. “But because of breast cancer research, you look at the people in pink shirts and you see that this group is getting bigger … more and more people are surviving this.”

Children from 3 to 12 years of age can walk the shorter half-mile route through the Komen Kids for the Cure event. Those who are unable to attend the walk/run in the District also can participate and still collect pledges through Sleep-In for the Cure. Participants are allowed to register up to the day of the race.

This year’s event marks the 25th anniversary of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, an organization created by Nancy Brinker in honor of her sister who died from breast cancer. The organization has worked to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research. According to the group, it has invested nearly $1 billion in research and community outreach programs.

Robin Prothro, executive director of Komen Maryland, said the group continues to push for awareness and early diagnosis. [IMGCAP(1)]

“Early diagnosis increases the chances [that the cancer is found] at a stage where there would be more of a positive outcome,” Prothro said.

But Prothro said more needs to be done in the realm of research and to ensure that the issue does not get pushed to the back burner in the coming years.

“There is definitely more that needs to be done,” Prothro said. “There’s been tremendous innovation and discoveries that have had significant impact on treatment and is really changing the outcome for a lot of breast cancer survivors.”

For example, Prothro said, baby boomers are approaching the ages of 45 to 55, a group that sees the highest number of breast cancer diagnoses. Scientists also have discovered four types of breast cancer, each requiring different techniques in treatment.

Katie Martha, spokeswoman for Komen for the Cure, said the group is looking to focus more on advocacy. The walk/run event comes after a series of lobbying events on Capitol Hill, including a rally and a luncheon with political commentator Cokie Roberts as a keynote speaker.

“We would love to get some Members of Congress involved in the National Race this year — at both the state and local level. Their participation and support is essential to helping end breast cancer,” Martha said.

Funds raised from the June 2 event will go back to grants benefiting the D.C. metropolitan area. According to the organization, D.C. has the second-highest breast cancer mortality rate in the nation at 33.7 percent, compared with the national rate of 26 percent.

Kahl, who also works as an advocate for the Komen organization, said lack of access to screenings continues to be a problem for many local communities.

“Awareness has such different meanings in different cultures,” she said. “There are life logistics … cultural and demographic issues that converge to make [early detection] harder.”

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