Girlfriends Run, Pink Brigade Guys still taking it to the streets

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter



If you go

What: Girlfriends Run for a Cure quarter-marathon (6.55 miles) and half-marathon (13.1 miles), Pink Brigade Guys and Kids Mini-Marathon.

When: 9 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 16.

Where: Northwest Personal Training, 1011 Broadway, Vancouver.

Why: Benefits Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Pink Lemonade Project and the Children’s Center.

Registration: Cost for the quarter- and half-marathon is $75. Kids Mini-Marathon is $30. Register online,, through Oct. 13. Registration also is available at packet pick-up and the day of the race, but prices increase $5.

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When Sherri McMillan organized the first Girlfriends run 10 years ago, she had no idea what the October event would morph into.

What started out as a small tribute to a girlfriend battling a breast cancer diagnosis has blossomed into an annual women-only event that draws thousands of people to downtown Vancouver to raise money for breast cancer research.

“The coolest thing is we started this for Joleen,” said McMillan, owner of Why Racing Events, which hosts the event. “She continues to do the race every year.”

“It’s like the 10th anniversary of her being diagnosed with cancer — and how strong she is, and how far she’s come,” McMillan added. “Joleen’s fitter than she’s ever been.”

After Vancouver resident Joleen Skarberg was diagnosed with breast cancer, McMillan, a personal trainer and owner of Northwest Personal Training, launched the Girlfriends Half Marathon to honor and support her client. The goal was to get 100 people to sign up for the race to honor Skarberg, McMillan said. More than 400 people signed up for the inaugural event.

In the years that followed, the event’s popularity grew and races continued to sell out. For the last several years, organizers have capped the event at 3,000 women.

Over the years, the event has added races and changed names but continues with the original mission: raise money for breast cancer research. In the last nine years, the event has raised nearly $400,000 for local and national nonprofit organizations, McMillan said.

This year, as in past years, the Girlfriends half- and quarter-marathon will benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The event’s companion races will benefit the Pink Lemonade Project, a Vancouver-based nonprofit dedicated to empowering breast cancer survivors, and the Children’s Center, a nonprofit that provides mental health services to children and families in Clark County.

This year’s event begins at 9 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 16, at Northwest Personal Training, 1011 Broadway, in downtown Vancouver.

As runners and walkers cross the finish line, they’ll be rewarded with chocolate, cupcakes and necklaces. They’ll get girly long-sleeved shirts and can enjoy other perks, such as massages and brunch, while checking out vendors. Firefighters will be at the finish line congratulating participants.

As the name suggests, the event is targeted at women. The only way men can participate in the event is if they raise at least $500, either by donating the money themselves, collecting money from friends and family or getting a company to sponsor them.

The Pink Brigade Guys can either run or walk one of the races with the women or participate in the event in another way, such as a lead bicyclist or VIP volunteer. The brigade is limited to 50 men.

Money raised by the Pink Brigade Guys will benefit the Pink Lemonade Project. In past years, the money raised by the Pink Brigade Guys has surpassed the amounts raised by the main event, McMillan said. Last year, the 25 men participating in the event raised $26,000 for the Kearney Breast Center at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, she said.

The event also includes a Kids Mini-Marathon — a 1.1 mile run for kids 16 and younger — to benefit the Children’s Center.

In the future, McMillan hopes to take the Girlfriends Run on the road, launching events in other large metro areas across the country. She also hopes to continue enhancing the local event each year, adding new details to keep people coming back year and after year.

“I don’t want it to be just a fundraiser but also a really cool event,” McMillan said.