Thousands of runners of all ages and abilities warmed up a chilly Central Park on Saturday, May 19, at the third annual Healthy Kidney 10K benefiting the National Kidney Foundation. The race has picked up steam since its inception two years ago, drawing more than 7,000 runners this year, up from 4,100 in 2005.
Even as overcast skies threatened with a sprinkling of rain, the participants streamed across the starting line to begin their loop of the park, cheered on by family, friends and fans. Though 24-year-old Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein’s record-breaking finish, unseating two-time defending champion Craig Mottram, was the story of the day, all the finishers had their day in the sun (which eventually emerged).
From the sub-five-minute-per-mile front runners to those at the back of the pack, participants pushed hard in this race to benefit the National Kidney Foundation. It was fitting that Ritzenhein received the loudest cheers at the awards ceremony when he announced his plans to donate his $7,500 first-place prize money to the National Kidney Foundation. “This is an amazing race,” he said to long applause. Finishing the race at 28:08, Ritzenhein broke the 28:10 Central Park 10K record set in 1997.
The National Kidney Foundation was well-represented by senior leadership, including COO Stephen Bajardi, Immediate Past Chairman Fred Brown and numerous staffers who manned a booth with educational materials and answered questions from thousands of interested runners. Many of the runners who visited the NKF booth at registration were running on behalf of a friend or family member with kidney disease.
Lynne Davis, a Brooklyn resident, said she was running because her father died of kidney cancer in November. “I’m out here to honor him,” said Davis, who finished in 1:00:42, “and while I’m running today I’m going to be focused on thinking about him.”
Naureen Rashid, a National Kidney Foundation member, wowed the crowd with her inspiring words about donating a kidney to her dad.
The delegation from the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, which sponsored the event, also had a personal connection to kidney diseases. The country’s late president, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, underwent a kidney transplant in 2000 and made a point of supporting kidney-related charities until his death in 2004 and beyond.
“This is to honor him, on behalf of our country, and to support people of all nations, especially those who cannot afford to get this kind of treatment,” said Mohamed S. Al-Kendi, the country’s assistant military attaché. He also said that, as an Arabic country, it was important for the UAE that the race took place in New York. “It helps our nations have closer relations, and helps to bury some wounds and close the gap between us, which is so wide these days,” he said.