This Sunday, expect to find a sea of pink

Thursday, September 10, 1998

BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Jim Scott probably thought I overslept.

WLW radio's token nice guy stood on the pedestrian bridge from Fountain Square to the Westin, looked down at the crowd on Fifth Street below and finally started the race without me.

That was a year ago, the first Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Race for the Cure in Cincinnati. Because I'm a breast cancer survivor, I was invited to help with the 5K run-walk. Hand out some awards. Help start the races.

The perfect exercise

Believe me, I was thrilled. Here was a chance to be part of an athletic event, wear my new running shoes, yet not actually have to run anywhere. Or sweat.

This is my idea of the perfect exercise.

I missed the send-off for the first race because I was leaning against the side of a building across the street. Taking deep breaths. Overwhelmed by the sight of so many pink hats.

A sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha, was handing out the hats to breast cancer survivors. Many of the faces under those pink hat brims were familiar. I have seen them at conferences and in hospital rooms and at memorial services. I have seen them sick and bald. I have seen them angry and sad. I have seen them wearing wigs and trailing IV bags.

But I had never seen so many of them -- of us -- in one place. It literally took my breath away.

I don't know exactly what it was. Betsy Baugh, chair for this year's race, says it's "the power of numbers."

Well, yes. But there were individual snapshots of that day I'll never forget. Little kids, I mean little ones, were wearing signs saying they were walking in honor of "Mommy." Or "Grammy." And those persistently jaunty pink hats.

So many of them.

"I wish survivors who aren't running or walking this year would come downtown anyway," Betsy says. "They would just feel wrapped in support."

Gracious steamrollers

The support began with just three women -- Julie Gordon, Betsy Baugh and Peggy Isenogle -- who brought the race to Cincinnati last year. They are steamrollers. Nice smiles. Pearls. But steamrollers. Organized. Determined. And successful.

Betsy says they were hoping for about 2,000 participants the first year. And 3,707 runners and walkers showed up.

They thought maybe they could raise $50,000. They raised $180,000. Of that money, $132,000 stayed in Cincinnati. The rest was sent to the Susan B. Komen Foundation, credited with supplying much of the research money for the new miracle drug Herceptin.

This year's Race for the Cure is Sunday. The goal was 5,000 walkers and runners and $200,000. Wednesday they hit the 5,000 mark.

Betsy thinks maybe they'll wind up with as many as 6,000. Let's surprise her. How about 7,000? You can register the day of the race for $25, and you can call 825-7223 with questions.

Registration starts at 7:30 a.m. There's an aerobic warm-up at 8:30 and the first race starts at 9 on Walnut Street between Fifth and Sixth streets.

If this is your first time, you may be startled by our sheer numbers. And don't be surprised if you see somebody you know in a pink hat, somebody you didn't realize was qualified to wear it.

We don't usually advertise, but on occasions like this one, we let you know who we are. Proud to do so. Grateful, in fact. We wouldn't mind growing old in these pink hats. Meanwhile, we run and walk and kvetch. Steamrollers.

Because these pink hats are one piece of clothing we do not want to become hand-me-downs. Laura Pulfer's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393, e-mail at lpulferenquirer.com or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Mondays on WVXU radio, and as a commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. Her book, I Beg to Differ, is now available from Orange Frazer Press (800) 852-9332.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in the Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. E-mail her at laurapulfer@enquirer.com

PULFER ARCHIVE