What do you get when you combine more than 6,000 runners and walkers with seemingly hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of volunteers, fans, cancer survivors and neighborhood residents out to cheer you on, most of whom were dressed in pink? A marathon & half marathon for a wonderful cause, and a spirit and energy that really brought out the best in people and set the tone for a really wonderful race experience.
That’s what this year’s 26.2 with Donna National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer was like for this runner, anyway. There really was a sea of pink everywhere, from the Runners Village at the start of the race to the runners dressed in pink shirts, tutus, feather boas, skirts, wigs, and bras — and that was just the men.
Begun just a few years ago — this year’s 2011 race was just its fourth annual running — the 26.2 with Donna event is the brainchild of Donna Deegan, a Jacksonville television news anchor who had her own battle with breast cancer several years ago. Her public fight against the disease helped shine a spotlight on the need for more research dollars and for more support for women fighting it every day, and led to her involvement in creating The Donna Foundation and the race that today serves as its major fundraiser.
In a big way, the cause defines the race in a way that to me, was really unprecedented for a running event. Many races donate significant portions of their proceeds to charitable organizations, but few personalize their event in quite the same way as the 26.2 With Donna race — and that’s probably what helps set the tone for the event, which I’d have to say is one of the friendliest races I’ve ever been to.