For the seventh year in a row, Ellen Holbrook and Lisa Felder are organizing Pinkathon San Francisco, a fundraising race benefitting BCRF that offers courses ranging in length from 5K to 50K. Since its launch in 2014, the event has raised nearly $27,000 for BCRF, and is now poised to raise $25,000 this year alone.
“Raising more and more money for breast cancer research has been so rewarding,” Ellen says. “Pinkathon is a lot of work, but thinking about the impact the funds will have on ending breast cancer is very motivating.”
The race is deeply personal for her and Lisa Felder, a prominent ultra runner who became her co-organizer in 2015. Running is what initially brought them together: The two met in 2000 when Ellen joined the East Bay Run Team for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team-in-Training Program, of which Lisa was the assistant coach.
While they bonded over their love of the sport, they also shared another commonality: both are breast cancer survivors.
Ellen was diagnosed first in 1999. An accomplished long-distance runner, she had completed seven marathons and several triathlons prior to learning she had breast cancer.
“Back then, there wasn’t much discussion about people like me being at risk for breast cancer,” Ellen says pointing to her age, fitness level and lack of family history. “The perception was that it happened to people who are older, overweight, and had relatives who’d had it. But the truth is that no one is immune to breast cancer.”
Ten years after she and Lisa met, Lisa learned she had breast cancer. Her reaction was very similar to Ellen’s.
“I was in the best shape of my life,” recalls Lisa, who has run over 100 ultra marathons and founded her own coaching business, Ultra Fitness Beyond Imagination. “I honestly thought that maybe my doctor had made a mistake. It took a long time for my diagnosis to sink in.”
But ultimately, their shared experiences—and their passion for running—have fueled a commitment to help ensure that the prevention and treatment of breast cancer continues to improve. And they each bring key skills to the table, says Lisa: Ellen is tech-savvy and more of a businessperson, while she has a lot of connections in the running community. Both have helped grow the Pinkathon. Today, about 150 people participate in the race, up from 30 in 2014.
“That’s about as many people as we can handle because the goal has always been to keep expenses low so all the money raised goes to BCRF,” Ellen says. “So we’ve had to come up with new ways to raise more money.”
That has included asking local businesses to donate services that can be raffled off at the race and getting volunteer help from local hospitals. And this year, Lisa was able to secure slots for 9 runners to raise money for BCRF in the Miwok 100K Trail Race, an ultra marathon that takes place in California every spring.
Now, directors of other races are starting to come to her to offer slots for runners who want to raise money for BCRF.
“I’m ecstatic,” Lisa says. “Working on Pinkathon has been such a fun way to contribute to a good cause, and the event just keeps growing.”
To donate to Pinkathon San Francisco and help Ellen and Lisa reach their fundraising goal, click here.
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