Cheer on participants of Rotary Run

By Cindy Goodwin' email='Cindy.Goodwin@mi-reporter.com

Growing up in Ashland, Mass., in the early 1960s was a point of pride every Patriot's Day. Ashland is one of the many small towns along the route of the Boston Marathon. When I was a child, this was the day that my mother would take me, along with my sisters and brother, downtown to watch hundreds of men (at that time there were only men) running in the street. Everyone was cheering and I was told to stand back to allow these special people the room they needed. The groups of spectators lined the street for as far as I could see and runners kept on coming for what seemed an eternity. Today, the Boston Marathon hosts 20,000 runners with over 500,000 community spectators.

Like many towns across the country, Mercer Island hosts an annual run that is worthy of community pride. On Sunday, March 20, I invite you to come out and join Rotary in supporting hundreds of community volunteers and over 3,000 runners, many of whom will be colon cancer survivors as we raise money and awareness for colon cancer.

The Mercer Island Rotary Run is the longest-running half-marathon in the state -- over 30 years! The annual Rotary Run Marathon, 8K and Kids Dash is held each March, usually the last Sunday of the month. This year, the Rotary Run will include: the Virginia Mason Half Marathon Run and Walk, the Swedish Medical Center 8K Classic Run and Walk and the Mercer Island Reporter Half Mile Kids' Dash. Individuals as well as teams are welcome to enter.

The Rotary Run raises thousands of dollars for local and regional causes and it encourages participation in running for athletes of all ages and abilities. There will be elite runners as well as small children running with Sponge Bob and the Seahawk's mascot, "Blitz." In addition to partners, such as Virginia Mason and Swedish Hospital, the Island's Farmers Insurance donates monetary support, the use of their parking lot for the Race Village and staffs two water tables on the course. Funds raised will directly support the Mercer Island Rotary's local, regional and international charities.

There are many ways to support the run and the runners. One way is to enter one of the events as an individual or a team. Another way is to volunteer to be a course marshal. There will be more than 3,000 runners working their way around the Island and crossing many intersections. The run will begin with the marathon walkers at 7:30 a.m. The Kids' Dash will start at 8:30 and the runners will begin at 9 and 9:30. We will need a lot of help to make the route safe for participants. If you can volunteer for a few hours please call Sam Sullivan at 230-9435 or e-mail salvino444@yahoo.com Support could include coming out along the route to cheer the participants on. Mercer Island has several hills and dips that will challenge many participants. Most runners love words of encouragement and the team spirit of an organized sporting event. The cheers are uplifting, though it's best not to tell a struggling runner "to go to your happy place." People along the Boston Marathon route get out their card tables and leave out cups of water, sliced oranges and cut up bananas for the runners. On the Mercer Island course there are six water stations throughout the run. That means there is more road space that will be filled with thirsty and tired runners. You can also support the youth who will be entertaining the participants along the route. By most of the water stations there will be a group of youth from either Crest or Mercer Island High School performing in bands, drum lines, or leading cheers. You can stop by and thank these kids for their contribution.

Join us in whatever way you can: cut the grass, sweep the walk, cheer on the runners, but come out and be with us. Make the Rotary Run part of your day, and one of your traditions. Bring your children out to see runners who are supporting important charitable efforts and staying healthy. The Rotary Run Day allows all of us to participate in an event that benefits our community and our greater world.

Cindy Goodwin is director of Mercer Island Youth and Family Services.

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