By Maria Cestero and Kiara Thomas
It’s 7:34 a.m. at Oldfield Middle School and fog reaches up to the high ponytail of Lisa Hutchinson, as she’s about to start the 2nd annual Town of Huntington 5K Run to Save Lives. She got her neon green shirt and a paper bib carrying her running identification number.
With New York ranking last in number of organ donors, the race was held during National Donate Life month to encourage participants to become organ donors. In 2019, thirty five percent of New Yorkers are registered organ donors comparable to the 58 percent national average. All proceeds from registration and sponsors were divided between LiveOnNY Be the Match and Team Liberty after taking to account the expenses.
The top three fastest runners won metals, gift baskets, gift certificates to Greenlawn Hardware, Pawsome Pet Rescue, and Erika’s Day Spa.
“I belong to BHC Fitness and they said there is this race today and [that it] was for a good cause,” Hutchinson, a 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon runner, said. “I said ‘Why not. Let me take my run outside.’”
Christian Siems and Hunter Cuthbertson were recognized at the event. Siems was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease that enlarges the heart, and Cuthbertson was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, also known as bone marrow failure. In the past 4 years, they received their organ transplant.
“My son went to a gym trainer [at Simply Fit,] who never heard of someone having a transplant,” Michele Martines, mother of Siems, said. “As a trainer, he wanted to show how healthy people are afterwards [and that] life continues.”
The event doubled from last year, Christian Martines and Huntington Councilman Mark Cuthbertson said. As the weather gets warmer, 5Ks are expected to be more frequent on Long Island.
“In a year it could be as many as 200 [5ks]” Mike Polansky, the president of the Greater Long Island Running Club, said. “So far [for this year, we have] about half a dozen 5k events [scheduled].”
Eighty two percent of United States runners run 5ks according to the 2017 National Running Survey and Running USA. Runners attended an average of eight events in 2016, an increase from seven in 2015.
“Since ‘96, since I’ve been starting, [5ks] have been increasing a thousand fold,” Hutchinson said. “Every weekend you can find multiple 5ks.”
On April 7, about 10 miles away from the race at Huntington, Running 4 Our Angels 5K Run/Walk in Remembrance took place at Smithtown High School West.
The race was in memory of the four women who died in a limousine accident in Cutchogue in July 2015. A drunk driver hit the vehicle while they were leaving a winery. Three people, including the bride, were injured. The agenda of the day was to shed light on the safety issue associated with limousines and roadways.
“[People like 5Ks because] they don’t take as much time. It’s more for anybody, whether you’re in really good physical shape or not,” Tom Pawluk, the niece of one of the angels, said.
While most races have a cause connected to their community, as Hutchinson said, people attend these races for their own reasons.
“I’m in recovery. I used to be a heroin addict,” Anthony Miccio from Mount Sinai said. “I have about two years clean. I started running and getting in shape when I stopped doing drugs. When I run I feel like I don’t have to use drugs.”
5K Run/Walk to End Addiction is a 5K Miccio is planning to attend on May 18. The race is one out of the 34 races set to take place in May, according to the event calendar on the Greater Long Island Running Club website.