Story by Eli Ruiz
ROCK HILL March 12, 2013 “Looks like quite the undertaking.”
That was Kevin Bertucci’s understated assessment of Sunday’s 10th Annual Celebrate Life Half Marathon (CLHM) staged in and around Rock Hill to benefit cancer research.
From Clifton, N.J., Bertucci was there Sunday supporting his partner who was competing in the race. Bertucci added, “This is my first time up here and I didn’t expect this at all. The beauty up here, this turnout it’s just outstanding.”
Indeed an undertaking, the event takes more than seven months to plan through the combined efforts of race founder and director Miriam Loor, her army of volunteers, Randy Resnick and his staff at the Sullivan (S), the Rock Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps., the Outback Steakhouse and many others.
Fast Finishes provided timing services for the event, which turned out to be a resounding success with nearly 800 competitors from all over the country registered for the 13.11 mile run. About 600 actually completed the scenic course.
But it was about much more than competition for most of Sunday’s runners, joggers, and walkers several of whom traveled quite a distance for the event.
Lois Green of Albany who survived lung cancer having half a lung removed showed up on a chartered bus with 40 fellow runners; part of a group she formed specifically for this race only a month ago calling itself “Joined Together by Distance.” Offered Green, “I’m a cancer survivor myself and that’s what brought me here today. This is my fourth time running in the CLHM and every year I bring new people, never this many, though.”
Despite having battled lung cancer, Green says she’s never smoked, and in-fact has always been an avid runner having more than 15 full marathons under her belt. “I’ve always run, but I continue to do it now to stay healthy,” added Green.
For brother/sister team Eddie Krisol of Ramsey, N.J. and Kelly Pluchino of Pine Bush, the race was something very personal. Having lost their mother Pat to cancer in 2005, Eddie and Kelly dedicated Sunday’s run to her memory. “We each came with our young daughters. We decided a while ago that we were going to run this for our mother who passed away in 2005. We thought it would be a really nice thing to do together for her, and the girls get to spend the day together.”
Beside an awards lunch catered by the Outback Steakhouse at The Sullivan, physical therapist Tony Trujillo of Kneaded Touch in Connecticut was on hand to help runners warm up before and recover after the race. Several vendors tables were also set up with everything from running shoes and apparel to large Chicago-based beverage maker Made Drinks, who had representative Rehan Husain on hand with hundreds of cases of their organic lemonade to help quench runner’s thirsts. Local cheese makers, Formaggio Cheese, also had a table set up in The Sullivan’s great hall stocked with several of their company’s offerings.
Trujillo, who was making his second consecutive trip to Rock Hill to donate his services for the event, said, “Unfortunately, I have several family members I’ve either lost or have battled cancer. Since I did this here last year, Miriam reached out to me to ask if I’d come back. Well, a bunch of friends of mine were participating in the race this year, and it being for such an incredible cause, it was a no-brainer.”
Dennis Toscano of Liberty, and a long-time member of the Sullivan Striders running club, said of the event, “Extremely well-put together. Just a top notch event, and I can’t give Miriam enough credit for what she’s done here. She makes it look easy.”
Marcus Guilliano of Ellenville, who ran in the very first CLHM 10 years ago, uses the race as a primer for his personal running season said, “This is my fourth CLHM and I do it for a number of reasons, the most of which is that I’m a runner and this race just offers a great start to my running season. The energy here is just phenomenal and it’s just a testament to what an amazing job Miriam does with this race. I don’t know of any other race with this kind of following.”
Guilliano has run his last two CLHM’s with his son who started running at age six and is now 10-years old. “Unfortunately he [his son] was injured and couldn’t make it today,” offered a disappointed Guilliano.
Said Loor: “I feel blessed. It was a fantastic day with sunny skies and no wind just 48 hours after a snow storm. Every year it all seems to fall into place and it does because of all the volunteers who are passionate about helping and being here. To be surrounded by so much good energy, so much love and appreciation is a fantastic feeling. As I was standing at the finish line, a runner finishes and gives me a tight hug. It felt so good!”
With such a diverse group of competitors of all ages and varying levels of experience, it was all the more shocking to have Monticello High-School junior Tyler Foxwell, 16 come out of the race as the overall winner with a time of 1:19:47.8. Foxwell, who said he only picked-up running a little more than a year ago, also admitted to never having run more than five miles before Sunday’s big win. “I picked up running as a way to relax, as a way to find some inner peace,” said the precocious youngster, who added, “I chose to run today because not only am I training for a full marathon in May, but I also lost my grandfather to pancreatic cancer. He was only 62 when he passed. I also ran for him.”
Taking second place overall was 31-year old Jason Kennedy with a time of 1:19:49.6, with third place finisher Seth Kean, 38, coming in at 1:19:57.1, leading organizers to call it the closest contested finish in CLHM history.
Foxwell’s father who followed his son through the race in his car said, “It was crazy because it was Tyler and the other two guys [Kennedy and Kean] fighting for the lead through the race. When it was downhill, they would take him over, but uphill? Uphill, Tyler had them all the way and I think he did a great job of pacing himself today.”
Awards were later handed out for several categories including for various age groups, walkers, runners, and the early starters, but no category meant more or garnered more attention from the crowd of more than 1,000 runners and supporters than the cancer survivor awards. Forty-three-year-old Brian Krick of Millford, PA. took top honors in the cancer survivor category with 65-year old Susan Wong taking the top spot for the women. Things got emotional when Lucia Rein of Pine Bush, along with her sister-in-law Jeni Rein of Monticello took to the podium to thank Loor and those in attendance for their generosity in helping those battling cancer those like her. Lucia is currently battling stage-four breast cancer, and after a clinical trial at a Boston area hospital failed to improve her condition, she has recently had to begin painful and exhausting chemotherapy treatments. “We’re going to give Lucia a $1,000 check today before she leaves,” announced Loor. In tears, an emotional Rein said, “I don’t know just how to thank her [Loor]. I walked this race for years before my diagnosis and now I need the help. I really don’t know what to say right now. She’s just an amazing person doing an amazing thing here.”
For more information on the Celebrate Life Half Marathon, or to donate, please go to www.celebratelifehalfmarathon.com or give Miriam Loor a call at (845)-866-1345.