Thousands show up for Susan G. Komen Maryland Race for the Cure to raise money for breast cancer research

Rain did not stop thousands of breast cancer survivors and their supporters who turned out Saturday for the 2018 Susan G. Komen Maryland Race for the Cure in Howard County.

The rain paused just in time to let the racers — dressed in an array of pink from fuchsia tutus to rose-colored gorilla outfits — run and walk the 5K race around Columbia Gateway Drive.

This was the first year for Howard to host the race, which raises money for breast cancer research.

Last year, Baltimore hosted the race on its 25th anniversary. It was the race’s first time back in the city after 10 years away. Many walking in Columbia were happy the event had not returned to Baltimore, where they cited problems with parking and a narrow racing path.

Organizers called Columbia a more centralized location that they hoped would attract more people from throughout the state.

A Komen spokeswoman, Kim Schmulowitz, said that more than 4,000 people registered for the race and another 1,000 were in attendance, which she said were figures similar to last year in Baltimore.

As of Saturday afternoon, the race had raised over $313,000, about one-third of its $900,000 goal, according to its website.

The disease affects one in eight women in the United States, according to the Susan G. Komen nonprofit.

County Executive Allan Kittleman kicked off the race wearing a pink dress shirt. Kittlemen, whose 88-year-old mother is a breast cancer survivor, said he was happy to host the event in Howard.

“It’s a huge event. It brings a lot of awareness to Komen, which is more important than anything else, but also to Howard County and what a welcoming and caring community we are,” he said.

Maryland’s first race was at Baltimore’s Rash Field in 1993. The event moved to Hunt Valley in 2007, where it stayed for a decade.

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, which offers breast cancer screenings as well as abortions. The group quickly reversed itself and the Maryland chapter had never funded Planned Parenthood programs, but the state race still lost participants and the incident hurt fundraising.

The race in Howard County was held in the Columbia Gateway business park, just off Maryland 175 near its interchange with Interstate 95, with ample free parking and frequent parking shuttles.

The race route was bathed in pink, with participants dressed up in pink attire to honor loved ones. Even the port-a-potties were pink.

Among the walkers was Paula Johnson, 49, of Owings Mills, who wore a pink sweatshirt that said, “It came. We fought. I won.”

Her team has raised money for breast cancer research every year since she was diagnosed 11 years ago. This year, it raised $1,500 and team members wore pink boxing gloves and shirts that read, “Fight like a girl.”

Walking not far behind her was Ingrid Woods, 58, of Eldersburg, who had a double mastectomy last year. Surrounding her were 15 “Woods Warriors,” who raised more than $4,000, one of the highest-grossing teams at the race Saturday morning. Woods was a team captain for her employer, Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., which was one of the sponsors of the race and had more than 500 people registered, according to Woods.

Joann Starner of Riverdale walked with three men in pink gorilla suits in honor of their aunt, who is a survivor of breast cancer.

“It all started because she loves Bigfoot,” Starner said, adding that they surprised their aunt one year showing up in the costumes. The men wore florescent green T-shirts that read “We love boobies” on top of the gorilla suits.

Many participants walked to honor loved ones who died. Nikita Johnson of Baltimore and 11 other women walked to honor Johnson’s mother, who passed away in 2009 from breast cancer. Her team, called “Sisters that walk together for a cure,” wore black shirts with the name of their group on the back and “Fight like a girl” on the front in silver studs.

Baltimore Sun reporter Andrea McDaniels contributed to this article.

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