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Especially For You Race Against Breast Cancer is on this weekend- this time under new leadership

More than 15,000 participants expected for Sunday's event

Race director Jeff Decker and volunteer Patty Altmaier of Iowa City talk about sorting 12,000 T-shirts for participants in the Especially for You Race Against Breast Cancer at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids on Monday, October 1, 2018. The race is Sunday, Oct. 7. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Race director Jeff Decker and volunteer Patty Altmaier of Iowa City talk about sorting 12,000 T-shirts for participants in the Especially for You Race Against Breast Cancer at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids on Monday, October 1, 2018. The race is Sunday, Oct. 7. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s October, which means the race is on in Cedar Rapids as organizers prepare for this weekend’s 28th annual Especially for You Race Against Breast Cancer.

While participants in Sunday’s race can expect no major changes in this year’s 5K walk and run, this event is certainly new for the race’s new leadership, Jeff Decker.

“Obviously, this is the 28th year, so there’s such a rich tradition,” Decker said. “I want to make sure those traditions that are important to this event are maintained.”

Decker said he has never seen anything like Cedar Rapids’ annual 5K event, organized each year by Mercy Medical Center and General Mills.

Last year, it drew more than 14,700 participants, raising $389,000 in race registrations for the Especially for You fund, which provides financial assistance for mammograms, biopsies, ultrasounds and other breast-care services for those in need in the Cedar Rapids area.

According to Mercy officials, since 2008 the fund has helped more than 5,400 people receive 10,000 breast-care services in Linn County.

“I’ve only been around for less than 365 days, but it is pretty inspiring to see the support of this community,” Decker said.

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Decker, who has been involved in organizing large running events for several years now, took on the role of race director for the Especially for You Race in November.

A native of Bernard in Dubuque County, Decker moved to Cedar Rapids in 2016 after five years as the race director for the Twin Cities Marathon, an annual race in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

Before 2011, Decker said he got his start in the industry in New York where he worked for the New York Road Runners, the organization that manages the New York City Marathon, from 2005 to 2011.

When his family decided to move back to Iowa to be closer to family, Decker said, “I made my peace with leaving the running event industry, just figuring I would never find anything like that in Iowa. But as luck would have it, here I am again.”

He takes over for former race director Michelle Cole, and already, Decker said he’s never seen anything like Especially for You.

Although it’s a large event ­— historically drawing thousands of people each year — what strikes the new race director is that it is a special experience for each participant. It’s a celebration not only for those who fought breast cancer and beat it but for those who died or are still fighting it, Decker said.

Race organizers expect to see up to 700 cancer survivors at the race this year.

So far, more than 14,000 people have registered to participate, including more than 450 teams.

“I would love to see growth, and hopefully we’ll see growth this year, but over future years, I’d like to see it creep up over 16,000 participants,” Decker said.

Decker also has a goal to spread more awareness of the fund and invest in education to help area individuals know how they can apply for the resource.

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The Especially for You Race includes a 5K run, a 5K walk and a 1-mile “family fun” walk. The course will take participants from Mercy Medical Center’s Hall-Perrine Cancer Center on 10th Street SE and will end in NewBo, where the post-race party will take place. Activities include a pancake breakfast, music and entertainment, kids’ games and more.

Those interested in participating can still sign up until the morning of the race. Registration is $35 for adults and $20 for ages 15 and younger. Team registration is closed.

To learn more about Especially For You, visit especiallyforyourace.org.

If you go

When: Sunday. Opening ceremonies start at 7:45 a.m., and the 5K run begins at 8 a.m., followed immediately by the 5K walk and family fun walk. Cancer survivors will start lining up for the annual Survivor’s Photo in front of the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center at 7:15 a.m. The photo will be taken at 7:30 a.m.

Where: The starting line is in front of the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center, on 10th Street SE. The finish line will be at the NewBo City Market, 1100 Third St. SE.

Restrictions: Baby strollers, wagons and wheelchairs are permitted. However, dogs, bicycles, skateboards and skates are prohibited.

Parking: Downtown parking is available. Shuttle buses will transport participants from nearby lots to the starting area from 7 to 8 a.m. A map of shuttle pickup locations, and nearby parking lots, can be found on the race’s website.

For more information, visit especiallyforyourace.org or call (319) 398-6582.

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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