Annual Girlfriends Half Marathon attracts thousands of women

Run raises funds for cancer research

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter



If you go

• What: 2013 Girlfriends Half Marathon

• When: 9 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 13

• Where: Northwest Personal Training, 1011 Broadway

• Why: Benefits Susan G. Komen for the Cure

• Cost: $80 through Oct. 12

• Registration: Sign up here

Downtown Vancouver will be flooded with pink as thousands of girlfriends lace up their running shoes and hit the streets to raise money to support breast cancer research.Women of all ages and athletic abilities will come together for the seventh annual Girlfriends Half Marathon, hosted by Northwest Personal Training, on Oct. 13. All money raised through the half-marathon will go to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

In the past six years, the 13.1-mile main event and its companion events have raised more than $260,000 for Susan G. Komen for the Cure and two local organizations, said Sherri McMillan, owner of Northwest Personal Training.

The event began after Vancouver resident Joleen Skarberg was diagnosed with breast cancer. McMillan wanted to find a way to support and honor her client.

With that goal in mind, Northwest Personal Training launched the Girlfriends Half Marathon. The event’s popularity surprised even McMillan.

“I thought it would be something we could do annually but … I never thought it would be an event that attracts these kinds of numbers,” she said.

McMillan hoped to get 100 women to sign up for the inaugural run. By the time 400 people signed up, McMillan had to close registration. Organizers just couldn’t handle any more entrants for an event they pulled together in six weeks, she said.

The next year, McMillan capped the event at 1,000 participants and it sold out. The third year, the limit was increased to 1,500. Still, the event sold out. Now in its seventh year, organizers cap the event at 3,000 women.

“It’s just been this event that has attracted a lot of women,” McMillan said.

The event is targeted at women in more ways than just the name.

As runners and walkers cross the finish line, they’re rewarded with chocolate and necklaces rather than medals. They get girly T-shirts and can enjoy other perks, like massages.

“We really try to cater to women,” McMillan said.

Some men may participate — at a cost.

A maximum of 50 men are allowed to join the girlfriends’ fun if they raise at least $1,000, either by donating the money themselves, collecting money from friends and family or getting a company to sponsor them. Money raised by the Pink Brigade Guys is donated to the Kearney Breast Center at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.

The Pink Brigade Guys can either run or walk the half-marathon with the women or participate in the event in another way. Some brigade guys serve as lead bicyclists. Others have VIP volunteer positions, such as handing out necklaces to finishers, McMillan said.

This year the event will also feature, for the second year, the Kids Mini Marathon. In that event, kids run 12 miles on their own in the weeks leading up to the Girlfriends Half. Then, on race day, they’ll run the final 1.1 miles of the course together.

All of the money raised from the Kids Mini Marathon goes to the Children’s Center, a nonprofit that provides mental health services to children and families in Clark County.

Last year, the event raised more than $70,000 for the three charities, McMillan said.