COLUMBIA — Dark Sunday morning skies didn’t deter hundreds of last-minute participants from showing up at Columbia’s first annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. More than 4,000 runners and walkers completed a soggy 5K, making the race the largest in Columbia's history.
A sea of pink T-shirts, wigs and tutus were a cheery contrast to the gray backdrop. The rain pushed the original 8 a.m. start time back a few minutes and forced several planned events to cancel. The rain let up for about 30 minutes near the beginning of the race, so some of the runners were able to complete the 5K without getting too wet. Many of the walkers were caught in the rain.
Despite the weather, race chairwoman Johanna Cox-Littrell said it was an amazing day.
“People kept asking me if I was disheartened because of the rain,” Cox-Littrell said. “How could you be disheartened when you have 300 survivors smiling back at you?”
Although the kids’ race and performing artist Candy Coburn's concert were canceled, the children still got to play in the craft tent, and Coburn stuck around to sign autographs and mingle with fans.
“My grandmother fought breast cancer, so this is a cause that is very close to me,” Coburn said. She performs her single, "Pink Warrior," at about 160 shows per year, and all profits go to Komen for the Cure.
The race winner in the cancer survivor category, Katie Sutton, was one of the first runners to cross the finish line. She ran the 5K in 18:49 and came in third of all female participants.
“She’s been a cancer survivor for two and a half years,” Cox-Littrell said. “She looked very accomplished.”
The event included a few familiar MU faces. Topped with pink ribbons, the MU cheerleaders were among the racers, and Truman the Tiger made an appearance at the finish line. They got involved in the event months ago in support of their cheerleading coach, Suzy Thompson, who is a breast cancer survivor.
“The amount of support they gave me throughout the process is immeasurable,” Thompson said. Whether it was with a hug, a pink bow or just a quick e-mail, Thompson said the squad was there to battle it with her.
“The kids were the reason I kept going — I didn’t want to miss practice or miss a game," Thompson said. "I’ve never felt as loved.”
The Susan G. Komen Foundation raises money for breast cancer research, screening, treatment and awareness. Seventy-five percent of the money raised will go directly back to the community, and the remaining 25 percent is donated to research facilities across the country.
This year’s campaign aimed to raise $150,000, and by Sunday morning it was 95 percent of the way there, according to its website. Donations are being accepted until Oct. 19, and Cox-Littrell said she is confident that once Sunday’s donations are in the system, they’ll be at more than 100 percent.
“It just makes our goal for next year that much higher,” she said.