Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Comings and Goings of 5Ks

The Dan Cardillo Memorial 5K ran two weeks ago and saw 264 finishers. Clearly not a record-breaker, but always a good-spirited race with 100% of the proceeds going to the scholarship fund for kids needing assistance to pursue their passions. The race contributed just over $5000 this year. Thank you to all who came and ran, and all the sponsors who give a lot, especially in these down times.

On that one weekend, there were no less than six other races vying for runners. I think this is a wonderful statement about the sport of competitive running - it's alive and well and even growing, it seems. It just makes it tough for these competing interests to gain as much benefit for their efforts. Clearly, putting on a road race is not an easy solution for fund-raising. There always needs to be other sources. But it can be an excellent way to get folks up and out and participating for a good cause.

The Cardillo race is in the town of Falmouth, Maine, which has been an outstanding supporter of the event. Falmouth currently has a significant construction project underway, developing a new elementary school and moving athletic fields and facilities, etc. This directly impacts the Dan Cardillo 5K's certified course, as it ends on the existing track.

This turn of events comes at an interesting time in the history of the race for two reasons. One, there has been some discussion 'internally' about rerouting and re-certifying the course to eliminate passage through the Woodlands residential area. There are enough hoops to jump through and solicitations to make without having to keep the course intact every year. One less hurdle would be nice. Second, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, which is a fabulously successful event in Bangor (last weekend they had 5000 runners participate,) is coming to Portland in 2010. I believe I read in the Press Herald last Sunday that it is slated for Sunday September 12. That is the second Sunday in September, the day the Dan Cardillo has run for the past 12 years. Ouch, a direct hit.

I feel disappointed and disillusioned about the whole thing, which is too bad. (I'm probably just very tired from these past two months of running-related work.) I want everyone to succeed at their fundraising endeavors, but I think surely there must have been another day in the year without six other (smaller) races trying to succeed.

Of course, I'll deal with the realities of my race and do my best to keep Dan's spirit alive. Fortunately, Jim Skvorak of Homestead Mortgage Inc. also puts on an annual golf tournament in Dan's name to benefit the scholarship fund. Maybe we can co-brand our events and be hugely successful! I'll keep you posted.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Dan Cardillo Memorial 5K

Today is Labor Day and the weather here on the coast of southern Maine is lovely. It's clear, dry, and warm, with a soft breeze. I hope it is like this next Sunday for the running of the 11th Annual Dan Cardillo Memorial 5K Road Race in Falmouth, Maine. (Last year it rained.)

This memorial race was started 11 years ago by a group of 14-year old students and their families in memory of their friend, Daniel. In January of 1999, Daniel died tragically after crashing in a ski race warm-up. The loss of this special boy left a huge void in the lives of many, and the Falmouth friends chose to honor Dan's life by doing what they could. Falmouth high-schoolers Brent Noyes and Blake and Kirby Davis created the race, and, in its inaugural running in September 1999, there were 694 finishers. All of the proceeds benefited a scholarship fund set up in Cardillo's name and held at the Maine Community Foundation.

The boys and their families managed the race throughout their high school years. When they graduated and headed off to college, and their families and other contributors felt the need to move on, the race management baton was handed off. I took over directing the race in 2003.

The race course was a fairly flat counterclockwise loop which began on Woodsville Road in front of the then Falmouth High School. It turned onto Woods Road and into the Woodlands residential area. This private golf community supported the event which ran on its road for less than a mile, before returning to Woodsville Road. The finish was on the high school track, with food and post-race festivities on the field.

There have been some changes over the past seven years, though not many. In 2004, the race was USATF certified. No longer was there doubt about where it started and whether or not it was too long or too short. This is an important feature for competitive runners seeking to best their times and to set course records. [New in 2009, there is a cash prize for new course records by both male and female winners. More on that in a minute.] Also, since the race began, the town of Falmouth built a new high school and the old school became the middle school. This has not affected the course in any way.

Speaking of the town of Falmouth - they have been incredibly generous in their support of this event. They provide the track and field facility for the finish and awards ceremony, and for the kids race, accommodations for registration, restrooms, the most gracious facilities service, all without a fee. Historically, the police department has also been on hand to lead the race and provide traffic control.

New last year we added a kids' fun run around the track. This is intentionally low-key, free to the kids with medals to all finishers. New this year, kids will get tee-shirts provided by Atlantic Sportswear.

Another change has been the location of the waterstop. It originally was hosted by a Woodlands resident near the two-mile mark. A few years ago, the board of the Woodlands Homeowners Association brought the issue of whether or not the race should be allowed to continue to pass through the property to a vote. It didn't look good. Apparently there were objections to having the few hundred runners and walkers passing through the property, and the presence of a waterstop. I responded with a letter assuring we'd leave no trace; I had participants write letters; I promised we'd moved the waterstop outside the gate; I basically begged and pleaded. Thankfully, the committee has allowed us to continue, though each year there is an element of doubt and the need for me to request permission to continue.

The numbers are also well down from the inaugural event. We've averaged about 300 finishers for the past few years, which is fine given the Woodlands position, but it definitely hampers our fundraising capacity. We have some very loyal sponsors, though, including Bath Savings Institution, Homestead Mortgage Loans, Earl W. Noyes & Sons, Daniel T. Haley Insurance Agency, The Greenshoe Group, Shipyard Brewery, National Distributors, Atlantic Sportswear, and Peak Performance Multisport. New this year, the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein has stepped up as a sponsor.

I think part of the reason we hover at around 300 is because there has been a proliferation of new races occurring on the same day or the day before. It's just the way it goes; people and organizations seek to raise funds and decide a road race is a viable vehicle. The Dan Cardillo Memorial is locked into the second Sunday in September, and has been for years. It certainly has its loyal supporters who come regardless of what else is going on. And for the racers, it's about the race. Which is why we have established a $100 cash prize for setting a new course record. Peak Performance Multisport in Portland is sponsoring this incentive, and while it goes against the purpose of this race to give money away instead of to the fund, the idea is to ultimately attract more runners. Putting on a race is a competitive venture!

Giving technical tee-shirts to participants might also make it more attractive to runners, but I think of the 150 cotton tee-shirts we give away as art. Every year, Joanne Arnold from Falmouth, with a business called talltype, creates an image which includes a component of Daniel's childhood artwork. An image of the sun Dan included on a piece of pottery was taken and used in the race and golf tournament logos, and every year in the new images. Joanne contributes her beautiful work, and it's a treat to see the tee-shirts being worn around year after year.

I hope you decide to come out and support this event. The scholarship fund that has been established provides spirited youth with help they need to pursue their passions. They receive financial support to attend a variety of programs, whether in the arts, sports, or academics. If they demonstrate they are passionate, they have the opportunity to receive assistance. Come on out on Sunday and say, "I ran for Dan."