Photo credit: Brad Kutner and Will D.
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On a cool, crisp, sunny day, this year’s Ukrop’s 10K was a resounding success. Paul Edmund, who had just finished the race, caught his breath long enough to say he was there for “the beautiful weather, the 37,000 people and the tradition of Richmond.”
To be exact: 37,365 people. It was the largest pool of entrants in the 11-year history of the race.
The event is organized by Richmond’s Sports Backers, a non-profit group with the goal of building tourism in the city through sports and recreational activities. The group spends all year planning the event, starting the week after the last person crosses the finishing line.
Money from the event goes to the Massey Cancer Center, and this year about $550,000 was raised. Jackie Holt, PR and Communications Assistant for Sports Backers, says it was easy to choose a beneficiary.
“With Massey Cancer Center it's great, because they do the Massey challenge and people raise money as groups and it brings people together and it’s a really great partnership.”
The event is put together by some 2,000 skilled volunteers. Holt says the race wouldn’t happen without their support.
“We really depend on the volunteers, and they are all so great and awesome. They have been coming back year after year so they all know what they are doing.”
Alene Reta won the race with a time of 28:26. The second place finisher came in almost a minute behind him.
There is a special event held at the beginning of the race in which one lucky runner gets a bit of a head start at the race's halfway point, then tries to beat the elite runners to the finish line. It’s called the AT&T Dash for the Cash, and this year, University of Richmond law student Jessica Smith was ready for the challenge.
Squeezing in time between study sessions, Smith trained for weeks and beat the elite runners. She won the $2,500 prize and said she has plans for her winnings.
“I’m donating $500 to the Massey Cancer Center, for my mom and grandmother who are both cancer survivors. And the remaining money will probably go towards law school loans.”
There is always a cast of colorful characters at the Ukrop's 10K -- this year was no exception. Aaron Roth is a member of a curling team based in Richmond. He and his teammates used the race as a chance to get the word out about his favorite pastime.
He said he was “out here to have fun and bring curling to Richmond. We’re a bunch of friends who decided to go overboard with the costume contest this year and tell people about curling.”
Overboard is an understatement. One member of Richmond Curling, Benji Tull, wore a sizable elastic red suit that stretched about 2 feet in every direction. He explained he was dressed as a curling stone.
“It was a little hard, I don’t think anyone has seen a curling stone vomit before, but it came close,” Tull said.
Another racing enthusiast, Leonard Tanko, was in a costume some might consider a little nuts.
“Right now I’m wearing a squirrel outfit. A 7-foot tail with a dangling acorn about 4 feet in front of me, on PVC pipe painted brown to look like a bit of a tree,” Tanko said.
Tanko ran races in other parts of the state the previous weekend, but he said he loves the Ukrop’s 10K. With blisters on his feet, he ran the 6.4 miles, rewarded with the applause of the crowd.
“The people here are so lively. I got a lot of support on the road, a lot of people yelling things like ‘go squirrelly’ and some things about the nut I probably can’t say on the radio.”