BYRON -- At North Peach Park on Saturday morning, a steady cascade of pink crossed the finish line in the annual Susan G. Komen 5K Race for the Cure.
Pink hats, pink shirts, pink socks and frilly pink skirts -- some worn by men -- decorated runners who crossed the line with stories of survival, hope and loss.
On their chests they wore race numbers, but on their backs many wore pink cards that signified why they were running. The cards read “In celebration of” or “In memory of” followed by a person’s name or words like “my aunt” or “my sister.”
Among those who crossed the line with “In memory of” cards were Jed Smelser and his daughter, Leah, of Warner Robins. They run in the race every year in honor of his wife and Leah’s mom, Peggy Kay Smelser, who died in 1998 at the age of 40 after an eight-year battle with breast cancer.
“Her goal was to make it to 40 so she could see her daughter grow up,” Jed Smelser said.
They said their greatest hope is that insurance companies will start paying for mammograms at a younger age. “They keep bumping it up,” Leah said.
About 2,500 people participated in the race, with some running and many walking. It is the largest fundraiser for Susan G. Komen Central Georgia, which uses the money to help women get mammograms and to fund research.
Many runners wore pink T-shirts with the word “Survivor” on the front. One of those was Shannon Dobbs, of Jones County, who was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago.
She said it was detected early and she went through treatment “like a breeze.” She credited that to the fact that three years before she was diagnosed, she took up physical fitness. She was 75 pounds overweight then, but had cut that by the time she was diagnosed. She believes being in better physical condition helped her beat cancer.
“The thing I want to drill into young women’s heads is exercise, exercise, exercise,” she said, after crossing the finish line in 30 minutes. “It makes a huge difference in sleep, work, your mood, your personality ... everything is so much better.”
She does volunteer physical fitness training now, and said her advice to anyone just starting is to begin by walking for at least 30 minutes, three times per week.
Breast cancer survivor Rhonda Mills, of Gray, ran the race with her husband, Neal. She was diagnosed in 1999 and underwent 35 rounds of radiation. She said she enjoys coming to the race and seeing other survivors.
“It’s very inspiring to see all the people and their support,” she said.
She took up running a year and a half ago after her sister was diagnosed with colon and breast cancer.
“That was a wake-up call for me to try to get healthy again,” she said.
The winner was Robert McCoy, of Byron, with a time of 18:10. The top female runner was Peyton Raley, of Byron, with a time of 22:59. The top breast cancer survivor runner was Stacey Perkins, of Macon, with a time of 30:05.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.