In the past couple of decades, Annette Rieger has watched thousands of runners and walkers meander their way through some of Seattle’s most picturesque neighborhoods along the western shore of Lake Washington.
And she will be there again this year to cheer them on during the 35th anniversary of the Shore Run/Walk—whose proceeds benefit the Survivorship Program at the Hutchinson Center.
Annette is among several women who have poured their hearts and souls into the race since its beginning. And runners and walkers have returned their affection, making the event one of the most beloved in the Seattle area.
For Annette, the race is a celebration of life, a happy and upbeat event that has helped many cancer survivors and their families cope with life’s ups and downs.
“I have run it a couple of times. I had cancer myself—two bouts of breast cancer,” she said. “My treatments were successful, and I’m very thankful. Being involved in this race, giving back to the community, is very healing.”
Over the past 34 years, the race has become a gauge on the war on cancer, she said, showing enormous progress in a tangible, very visible, way.
“Over the years, I have seen many, many more survivors participating in the race, and more and more people celebrating survivorship,” Annette said. “Cancer touches all of our lives, and it’s great to see so many people coming together to fight this disease.”
A family affair
The Shore Run/Walk fundraiser remains deeply rooted in family and friendships forged over the years. It was started by the Hutchinson family to raise money for research at the Hutchinson Center.
The Center was founded by Dr. William Hutchinson, who named it after his brother, the baseball legend Fred Hutchinson, who died of lung cancer in 1964 at the age of 45. Dr. Hutchinson’s daughter, Charlotte Reed, started the race.
“We had this wonderful group of women and we really wanted to do something to support the Center,” Charlotte said. “We were busy moms, but we did everything ourselves, even setting up the barricades from the back of a pick-up truck. One year, we forgot to tell the police about the race!”
She remembers broken vintage cars at the beginning of the race, lost bus drivers—and a few lost runners—and having to use their own cars to haul tired participants. But mostly, she remembers it as a labor of love on behalf of the lifesaving work being conduced at the Center. The event has raised more than $2.5 million for cancer research over the years.
One of Charlotte’s earliest recruits was Corky Stark, who became consumed—in a good way—with the event.
“It was definitely a hands-on operation,” Corky said. “I have done every job that needed to be done in my 33 years with the event, from registration to bagging and everything in between. I recruited my entire family as part of the crew. They have, over the years, been timers, baggers, worked on traffic control, and every other job that needed to be done.”
Ten years ago, one of her daughters coordinated the entire event. “That was a special year for me,” she said. “I have tried to retire from the run for many years but I think it is part of my DNA now. I hope to continue with the race for many more years,” Corky said.
These days, it’s Judy Curran at the helm of the race, a role she relishes along with her family.
“You are looking at friendships that have been forged by lots of hard work over the past 30 years,” Curran said. “Today, it takes more than 100 people to make it happen, but it works because you get together with your loved ones to make it happen.”
Over the years, Curran said, the race has grown more special as more cancer survivors come out to participate.
“The day of the race is so heartwarming. People share great stories about survivorship, and their stories underscore the importance of what we are doing here.
“This is a very special race. It’s about survivorship, it’s about the importance of research,” she said. “When we see some of these runners, some of them cancer survivors, it’s an inspiration to all of us.”