Annual Komen race on the move

The city has lost one of its flagship fall events to Baltimore County.

The annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure to benefit breast cancer treatment and research is moving to Hunt Valley, organizers are scheduled to announce today. They pointed to scheduling complications with the National Football League over the use of M&T; Bank Stadium. Its parking lots have served as the race's staging area and finish line for six years.


Robin Prothro, executive director of the Maryland affiliate of the newly renamed Susan G. Komen for the Cure, said the annual April release of the Baltimore Ravens' home game dates left too little time to plan and publicize the race and recruit vendors for the site.

"The NFL is bigger than any of us," Prothro said. "The new race theater in Hunt Valley is not the Inner Harbor or historic Federal Hill, but we won't have congestion, parking or traffic issues."


In recent years, the one-day event has raised about $2 million. But to city boosters, the opportunity to showcase downtown Baltimore's streets can't be counted in dollars. City officials said the loss of the marquee race -- the state's largest fundraiser for charity -- comes as a blow, since it draws thousands of visitors and encourages them to see the city in a positive light.

"It's a chance to come see the city, take a walk around," Tracy Baskerville, a spokeswoman for Baltimore's Office of Promotion and the Arts, said. "We were very disappointed and sorry to see them go."

The 14th annual Baltimore race drew about 25,000 people to the city on a bright morning last fall, winding through Otterbein, Locust Point and Federal Hill along the waterfront. Many participants were breast cancer survivors running or walking with friends and families. Others ran in memory of loved ones who died of the disease.

Bill Gilmore, executive director of Baltimore's office of promotions, agreed that big-event producers rely on setting dates early but added that racers would miss something intangible.

"In a way, we're victims of our own success," Gilmore said. "The city [scenery] is impossible to buy. With all due respect to Baltimore County, it's not the same look or feel. It's not an urban environment."

Ellen Kobler, a spokeswoman for Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr., said race organizers approached officials there with the proposal to move the race into the county. He was quick to promise his support, she said.

After scouting sites in Timonium and Towson, organizers intend to stage the 15th annual 5K race Oct. 14 at the Executive Plaza, a business park just off Interstate 83 in the suburban community of Hunt Valley.

A spokesman for Mayor Sheila Dixon had no comment about the move, except to note that she has participated in past races.


Breast cancer claims 400 women's lives in Maryland every year, Komen officials said, the fifth-highest state toll in the nation. Nationally, 40,000 women die annually from the disease, American Cancer Society studies show.

The Maryland affiliate, one of more than 100, contributes $1.8 million annually to advance breast cancer screening, research, education and treatment.

Also today, to coincide with the change in the race venue, the national Komen headquarters will unveil a new name and logo. Hala Moddelmog, president of the Dallas-based organization, said the official name, previously the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, is now shorter and simpler: Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

The new logo suggests a runner's silhouette in a pink ribbon, the symbol for breast cancer awareness, officials said. The change marks the 25th anniversary of the advocacy group, founded by Nancy G. Brinker to honor the memory of her sister, Susan G. Komen, who died of breast cancer at 36. Moddelmog said the recasting of the group's name and logo is an effort to reach out to women in their 30s. For women in that age group, breast cancer often tends to go undetected until late stages.

"We're based on a promise between two sisters, so we kept the personal touch in the name," she said. "But we tried to skew a little bolder and younger, with new messaging to wake these [younger] women up."

Prothro, a nurse who has led the Maryland affiliate for seven years, said the pared-down name and logo provide "a unified image so all affiliates are identified as part of a whole."


And city officials let it be known that the race route back to Baltimore is not closed.

Said Baskerville: "We're more than willing to welcome them back."