After one year back in Baltimore, the Susan G. Komen Maryland Race for the Cure, which raises money for breast cancer research, will move to Columbia this fall to what organizers called a more centralized location that they hope will attract more people from throughout the state.
The new location marks the latest shift for the race, which attracts thousands of cancer survivors and their families, as well as people who have lost loved ones to breast cancer. They wear pink and T-shirts with photos in remembrance of those who died from the disease.
The first race began as a grass-roots effort and was held at Baltimore’s Rash Field in 1993. It moved to Hunt Valley in 2007, where it stayed for a decade. It returned to its roots in Baltimore last year for the 25th anniversary of the race, an announcement made with much fanfare from city officials. Some hoped it would stay in the city where it started.
Mayor Catherine Pugh said she thought the race did well in Baltimore and hopes it will return. Pugh said she understood that parking was an issue, but the city works with many races each year to accommodate large crowds, including the Baltimore Running Festival, which uses the parking lots by the Ravens and Orioles’ stadiums.
“We wish them well,” Pugh said of Komen. “Our doors are always open. We welcome them back if they want to come back again.”
The race does create parking and traffic issues for residents in Locust Point, said City Councilman Eric Costello, who represents the area, but it also brought positive attention and economic impact to the city and its small businesses.
“It’s a large race. It’s a high volume of people,” Costello said. “It shows off what the city has to offer.”
A Komen spokeswoman, Kim Schmulowitz, said that last year’s race was a success, but some participants complained that getting into the city was difficult and that it was hard to park.
Schmulowitz said some parking that was available free last year was not this year. Construction in the area also caused obstacles, she said.
While Baltimore received bad publicity for record homicides last year, the Komen organization got no complaints from people saying that they felt unsafe, Schmulowitz said.
Last year’s race started at the McHenry Row development in Locust Point and went down Fort Avenue and into Fort McHenry and back.
“It went really well and we were happy with it,” Schmulowitz said. “It was a beautiful location and it went off without a hitch and we had a lot of support from the mayor and the city. The only issue was some of the logistics.”
The race in recent years has attracted a large contingent from northern Baltimore County. Schmulowitz said that some people may decide not to follow the race to a new location farther away, but she hopes that they will just as many did when the event moved to Baltimore.
“Columbia is very centrally located in the state and it offers us an opportunity to attract new participants from other areas beyond Northern Baltimore County,” Schmulowitz said. “While we want to keep our current participants engaged with us, we also want to attract other people. Columbia is centrally located with many highways that drop you right there.”
The race, to take place Oct. 13, will be held in the Columbia Gateway business park, just off Route 175 near its interchange with Interstate 95. The race expects to attract 5,000 participants this year and the fundraising goal for the event is $850,000.
The event once drew 30,000 participants with fundraising goals of $3 million for its causes, but participation dropped off after a political controversy in 2012. The national organization said that year it would stop funding Planned Parenthood centers, which offer breast cancer screenings along with abortions. The group quickly reversed itself and the Maryland chapter had never funded Planned Parenthood programs, but the race still lost participants and the incident hurt fundraising.
Today, the race remains popular and the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Local governments still vie to host the event, which will bring economic dollars to the area.
“It is something I think is big for Howard County,” said County Executive Allan H. Kittleman. “It’s certainly a well-known event. It’s just another example of how we’re trying to make Gateway a focal point of Howard County and bring more people there. I hope it’s something that becomes a longstanding tradition.”
Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Luke Broadwater and Kate Magill contributed to this article.