By Eli Ruiz
ROCK HILL February 26, 2013 The Celebrate Life Half Marathon (CLHM) started out 10 years ago as a race for runners looking for more of a challenge than offered by the 5Ks traditionally held throughout the county.
It was also a way for cancer survivor, CLHM founder
/organizer and recently-published author Myriam Loor of Thompsonville to raise some money to aid in the battle against the disease that nearly took her life.
The race, which takes runners in and around Rock Hill, has become far more than was originally intended. It has become a very personal and emotional yearly Sullivan County sojourn for the many folks who travel from as far as Texas, Colorado, Chicago and North Carolina to run, jog, or walk the 13.1094-mile course in the name of a loved one who either won or lost their battle with cancer
“Over the last three to four years, this race has truly become a part of the community and it’s also become more than a race to most of the participants who have a relative or friend who in some way has been touched by cancer,” said Loor. “Life changes after cancer. There is an inevitable fear that lives within forever.”
Loor understands this fear all too well, as her two bouts with cancer included four months of chemotherapy with a short remission before the cancer returned, subjecting Loor to a second round of chemotherapy. Loor touches on this ever-present fear in her book titled “Because it is I” which was published last November and is available on amazon.com. It is described by Loor as a compilation of anecdotes and personal experiences involving running, children, hopes, fears and friends. “It’s basically my reflections on love, life, family, fear and friendship.”
A race and a cause
Loor reflected, “As far as the [CLHM], though, at first it was just a race. I love long distance [running] and… we also wanted to raise a few dollars for cancer patients and create a fund where 100 percent of what is raised goes to cancer patients with no red tape, no endless paperwork. They are going through enough, they need help, not more work.”
Loor added that the CLHM has come quite a ways since the beginning it initially attracted less than 225 people has nearly quadrupled in size garnering a total of 772 registrants last year. If Loor has her way, come race day March 10, well over 800 runners should be primed to go for the 10th anniversary edition of the Celebrate Life Half Marathon.
“It has truly become a symbol of survival and of honoring all of those who have and do face cancer, said Loor. “I think the name Celebrate Life says it all, and I think [the name] also attracts people to the race with its message of hope.”
Last year Loor collected $29,000 for Citizens Reunited to Overcome Cancer (CROC), the Celebrate Life’s beneficiary.
“It’s certainly a good amount, but there are so many people in need,” Loor said. “We can do better. I want to urge our community to donate any amount… it will help someone.”
The Sullivan Hotel is generously offering an unbeatable price to participants. Local eateries like Crust, Dutch's in Rock Hill, Aroma Thyme in Ellenville and Buona Fortuna in Monticello are also getting into the act, offering runners some sweet deals and discounts. Outback Steakhouse in Middletown will be catering the awards ceremony for the fourth straight year.
Runners will gather at The Sullivan before the race and the hotel wil also host the awards ceremony.
growing the race
Still, in a struggling economy, it’s a testament to Loor’s dedication and resolve that she’s managed to grow the event each and every year, and with that increase in participants comes an increase in donations.
“How strange is it that though things get harder every year, we still manage to raise more money?” she wondered, and immediately answered her own question: “I think it’s because it really has become something very personal to people, so many of them have been touched by cancer. They’re actually desperate to help.”
Race Day registration will open at The Sullivan by 7:30 a.m. By design, walkers will be setting off at 8:30. Slower runners take off at 9:30 and the rest head out by 10 am.
“That way they all end up meeting up in a bunch eventually and no one has to be lonely,” said Loor.
Two years ago Loor implemented what she dubbed “The Motivational Mile.” It’s a stretch in both miles 1 and 11 where signs line the roadsides, carrying the names of random folks who have either survived or succumbed to cancer. Many of the participants will see the names of their loved one.
“The addition of that Motivational Mile has really touched a nerve the last two years. This is a very powerful point in the race.”
community to rescue
As smoothly as things have gone in the seven months it takes Loor and her volunteers to prepare for the event, that was not the case last year. Loor had to navigate several obstacles and the race teetered on disaster in what amounted to a string of unfortunate circumstances.
At this time last year, the Lodge in Rock Hill (predecessor to The Sullivan), unexpectedly closed, leaving CLHM without a venue.
“It was two weeks before the race and I still had absolutely no place to hold the race,” recalled Loor. “I couldn’t cancel the race I had 500 hundred people coming in, several from Chicago and Colorado. What do you do?”
Loor and some friends/
organizers went into damage control, and in a moment of serendipity, the community in Rock Hill, and others, banded together to save the day, and the race.
“The outpouring of community support was just incredible,” said a grateful Loor. “I’ve never in my life experienced anything like that.”
Loor had mentioned the issues she was having to Crystal Run Healthcare medical director Michelle Koury. Within minutes Loor received a call from one of Koury’s staff with the offer of a tent of any size needed for people to gather on race day.
Phil Vallone of Rolling V Bus Company in South Fallsburg donated two buses to shuttle runners back to the start line, and from the finish, for the awards ceremony. The Rock Hill Fire Department also donated their facilities so that the race could go on.
“I have to say that it was probably the best of all races, to that point, because everyone just came through for us, said Loor. “And God came through with just the most beautiful day it was 60 degrees. I can’t thank everyone enough.”