The Detroit Race for the Cure: A look back at its history and top finishers

The Detroit Race for the Cure: A look back at its history and top finishers

By Dr. Edward H. Kozloff


Click for the Detriot Race for the Cure 5k - Top Finishers 1992-2019


This year marks the 30th running of the Detroit Race for the Cure.  In 2020 the race was to be held on May 2nd; however, the COVID-19 epidemic forced the race to be cancelled. Internationally, this event is the world’s largest 5k run and walk series.  In 1982, ten years before the Detroit area race, Nancy Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan Komen, that she would do everything she could to end breast cancer forever.  With only $200, she founded the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in her sister’s memory.  Today, the Komen Race for the Cure has raised and invested over $2 billion to fulfill this promise.


In 1992, the Detroit area race was one of twenty-four women’s 5k events that were held nationally.  Andrea Carroll, vice-president of the Motor City Striders, and Jane Hoey, of the Michigan Cancer Foundation, had heard of the race and knew that Detroit should host one of these events.  


The race was scheduled for April 11, 1992, at the Detroit Zoo, with the hope that 500 women would participate – a number that soon rose to 1,000, eventually hitting 3.403 on race day.  The previous year, the largest-ever Race for the Cure was held in Dallas, with just over 6,000 participants.  The Detroit field astounded everyone.


The race was dedicated to Alexa Kraft, one of the area’s first and fastest female runners.  In 1976, she ran the fastest women’s marathon ever in the state of Michigan.  As an over-30-year-old mother, she returned to community college and became a two-time All-American.  Never a drinker or smoker, she competed until she died of breast cancer in 1988, at the age of 39.  Each year, the first survivor finisher receives the Alexa Kraft Memorial Award.


The first race in 1992 was not without controversy.  A 23-year-old male Oak Park resident wanted to run and support the event.  However, nationally, the event was designed to be a race exclusively for women, as a statement that women would make about breast cancer.  At this time, race for women only existed throughout the country.  Male-only races had ceased to exist in the early 1970’s, and the host club, The Motor City Striders, was among the first in the nation to include women in their races.  The reality was that it was unfair to promote all-female races.  Nevertheless, some men did participate unofficially in this 1992 race,


The race began in the zoo parking lot, taking a partial lap around the lot and then heading out to the I-696 service drive, into the city of Huntington Woods, and then back to the finish at the zoo.  Ella Willis, 34, of Detroit, took top honors in 17:58.  She was followed by Angela Dunn, 26, of Royal Oak, in 18:25.  Angela had been a teammate of Alexa Kraft at Macomb Community College.  The first master was Cathy Paklaian, 40, of Troy, in 20:27.  The event raised nearly $80,000.


April 17, 1993


The field for the 1993 event reached over 4,300 and men were now officially invited to run.  The men were timed but not recognized or given awards.  Event officials had hoped that this event would have the 70º weather that had graced the city just two days earlier.  However, this was not to be, as chilling 30º temperatures and a brief, wet snow squall greeted the crowd during registration.  The start of the race was moved to the I-696 service drive and followed a similar route as the year before.


Angela (Dunn) Mogielski, 27, of Toledo, Ohio, led the field in 17:55.  The previous year, she had finished second to Ella Willis, who finished fifth in this race in 19:28.  Leading the Masters was Vickie Putnam, 44, of Dearborn, in 20:24.  For the men, Rick Brauer, 30, of Northville, was first to the finish in 15:50.  Fred Germaine, 52, of Mt. Morris, was the top master with a time of 18:57.  Michelle Engler, Michigan’s First Lady, was the honorary chair for the event and presented the awards to the winners.


April 9, 1994


Francie Larrieu-Smith, a five-time Olympian and the national honorary chairwoman of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Race for the Cure, came to the 1994 event.  The weather was a pleasant change from that of a year earlier, with sunshine and high-50º temperatures.  The field of 7,320 made this the largest race in Michigan since Emily Gail’s last big event in 1985 and was one of the largest in the 45-race series held nationally.  It took nine minutes for the last person to cross the starting line after the race began.


For the first time, parking became a major concern, as every space within a mile of the zoo was taken.  The race was competitive up front with two impressive female runners.   Lisa Weidenbach, a former University of Michigan All-American, had just missed three U.S. Olympic Marathon teams by finishing in fourth place at those trials, and Ann Boyd was  Michigan’s 1993 Female Runner of the Year.  During the race, these two passed the mile point together in 5:14.  At two miles, Weidenbach clocked 10:34 to Boyd’s 10:36 and held that margin as she finished in 16:40 to 16:42.  This was a course and race record that has held to this day, with Boyd’s time now tied for the second fastest ever for the event.  The master’s competition was nearly as tight, as Francie Larrieu-Smith led Nancy Grayson across the finish line in 18:12 to 18:20.  Grayson was a multi-South Carolina record hold and Runner of the Year as well as a former National Runner of the Year.


For the men, Rick Brauer again led the field, this time in 15:08.  Mike Manor, 44, of Clio, was the first master in 18:00.  The event raised $192,000 for breast cancer research and treatment.


April 22, 1995


A week before the race, for the first time, special registration areas were set up at several places to handle the continually increasing number of last-minute registrants.  Special off-site parking arrangements were made for the day of the race, one at the State Fairgrounds and the other at Royal Oak’s Beaumont Hospital.  Packed buses shuttled from early morning until long after the finish.  This was an important option, as the field grew to 12,533.  Nationally, the series was now held in fifth-six cities.  Nationally, at the time of this race, the Detroit event was the second largest ever.


On race day, a half-hour prior to the women’s competition, there was a separate starting time for competitive men.  While men could still run in the women’s section, they were not eligible for prizes there.  Although seemingly impossible, the women’s race was even closer than the previous years. Laurel Park, 32, of Ann Arbor, and Laura Murphy, 31, of Rochester, were within a step of each other from the start, and Ann Boyd, 31, of Ann Arbor, was right with them at the mile, in 5:34.  Murphy was first through two miles in 11:02 and still led with less than 150 yards to the finish.  However, Park turned on the speed, topping Murphy 17:04 to17:05.  Boyd finished 36 seconds later.  The first master finisher was Nancy Grayson, 44, of Northville, who finished fifth overall in 17:58, to establish a new master race record.  She was to become Michigan’s Master Runner of the Year in 1995.  Janis Puskar, 36, of Trenton, was the first breast cancer survivor, finishing in 27:00.  This was the first year the race recognized and awarded the top survivors.


In the men’s competition, Rich Stark, 29, of Ann Arbor, took an early lead, which held throughout the race.  His split times were 4:50 and 9:48, and he finished in 15:16.  As husband to Lauren Park, this was a double victory for the couple.   Guy Murray, 28, of Clawson, finished second in 15:20.  The first master finisher was Pat Wilson, 47, Harrison Twp., in 18:25.


This was the first year that the Michigan Cancer Foundation changed its name to the Karmanos Cancer Institute.  The race raised over $300,000.  In September, The Race for the Cure and the Motor City Striders were honored by the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health, and Sports as the State of Michigan’s “Amateur Athletic Event of the Year.”  Jane Hoey, of Karmanos, as well as four Motor City Strider members – Andrea Carroll, Ann Parent, and Sue and Ed Kozloff – received additional honors.  At year’s end, the Detroit race was the fourth largest Race for the Cure ever.


April 20, 1996


This year, sixty-five Race for the Cure races were held nationally.  Weather cooperated for the fifth edition of the Detroit race.  The 60º temperatures even allowed the Ford Mustang convertible pace cars to lead the field with their tops down.  This year, for the first time, there was no race day registration.  Despite this, the final tally of 13,519 was nearly a thousand more than the previous year!  Again, at the end of the year, this was the fourth largest in the nation. Twenty-two large shuttle buses helped lessen the off-site parking problems of the past.


The men’s race again started a half-hour before the women.  Carl Rundell, 28, of Birmingham, took the lead at the one-mile mark and finished with a four-second victory over second place finisher John Springer, 34, of South Lyon, 16:26 to 16:30.  Wally Barnowski, 41, of Royal Oak, lowered the master record to 17:27,


In the women’s competition, Laurel Park, 33, of Ann Arbor, was the class of the field for the second year in a row.  In 1995, she had edged to a one-second victory.  This year, she took the lead from the start and finished with a comfortable 31-second lead over Kathy Kubicki, 29, of Troy, 17:46 to 18:17.  Fourth overall, Nancy Grayson, 45, of Northville, again topped the master’s field with a 18:37 clocking.  Janis Puskar, 37, of Trenton, took the top survivor title for the second year with a time of 24:57.


April 19, 1997


The 1997 race raised the question about the largest running events ever held in the state of Michigan.  In the early 1980’s, Emily Gail hosted the largest races ever seen in the state on the streets of downtown Detroit.  Speculation regarding size of the fields ranged upwards of 15,000 to 20,000.  However, private conversations with finish line management teams revealed that the number of participants who crossed the finish line was often half – or less than half – of the number recorded.


The tally for the sixth Detroit event was 15,643 . . . hundreds beyond the already optimistic goal originally set by the race organizers.  The Ford Motor Company alone had over 1,727 employees participating.  Entries for teams totaled 3,616, and survivors of breast cancer totaled 738.


On race day, weather cooperated with sunny skies and mid-40º temperatures.  In the men’s races the first four broke 16:00, with Tyler Coady, 22, a Windsor resident, leading the group in 15:32.  In the masters field, Pete Hallop, of Ann Arbor, took 53 seconds off the year-old record when he hit the tape in 16:34.  He did this with a ten-year handicap, running at age 50.


For the women, Ann Arbor’s Laurel Park ran to her third consecutive victory with a time of 17:52.  The previous year, she had enjoyed a comfortable 31-second victory over second place finisher Kathy Kubicki of Troy.  Although the finish order was the same this year, it was a real race to the finish as Park, Kubicki, and third place finisher all finished within one second of one another: 17:52, 17:53, and 17:53.


The women’s master’s race was a battle among three nationally-ranked competitors.  Priscilla Welch, of Longmont, Colorado, was herself a breast cancer survivor, a past Olympian, and a winner of the 1987 London and New York City Marathons.  Francie Larrieu-Smith, of Georgetown, Texas, as a five-time Olympian and the National Honorary Chair for the event.  Nancy Grayson, of Northville, was annually ranked among the top five “masters” women in the country.


In this race, the three maintained contact through most of the distance, and Grayson emerged with her third consecutive win, clocking 18:25 to Larrieu-Smith’s 18:45.  Welch, at age 52 the senior of the trio, finished in 19:22, a new survivor record.


April 25, 1998


Olivia Newton-John, famous singer and a breast cancer survivor herself, was among the 21,200 who were at the 7th annual race.  (Nationally, only two other races had ever had more participants.)  Newton-John had undergone a mastectomy in 1992 and this year was traveling to these races to not only lend her support, but to participate in the races as well.  This year, the series had expanded to 86 cities.  In the Detroit area, the Ford team’s numbers had jumped to 2,360.  The breast cancer survivors who participated increased to 933.


This was the third year in a row the race day experienced great April weather.  Temperatures were in the mid-50’s with sunny skies and (since this was the latest date the Detroit race had ever been held) sunlight earlier in the morning.


In the men’s race, the 1995 winner, Rich Stark, returned for the second time.  He trailed Scott Collins, 26, of New Baltimore, by only a step through mile splits of 4:47 and 9:38.  They were together at the three-mile point; however, in the sprint to the finish, Stark’s finishing drive hit the tape in 14:59, just two seconds ahead of Collins.  Stark’s time set a race record as he averaged 4:49 per mile.  Pete Hallop, of Ann Arbor, took his second consecutive master title in 16:40.


For the fourth consecutive year, Laurel Park was the women’s victor.  Her time of 17:04 matched her fastest run in 1995, when she and husband Rich Stark had their first husband-wife victory in the race.  Kathy Rink, finishing in 17:26, finished second for the third straight year.  The female master title was taken by Robin Sarris-Hallop, 42, the wife of the men’s master winner.  Her time of 18:37 was 33 seconds ahead of Nancy Grayson, who had won the three previous races.  Sarris-Hallop was honored by the Michigan Runner Magazine as the Female Master Runner of the Year. The first breast cancer survivor was Janis Puskar, 39, of Canton, who won this title for the third time in four years, this year in 24:23.


At the end of the year, this Detroit race was the sixth largest nationally and just missed being fifth by less than a hundred competitors.  The final tally of $350,000 raised for breast cancer research was a record.  


April 24, 1999


In an attempt to ease the burden of the large race field, an event was added, starting a half-hour earlier.  The men raced at 8:00 a.m., the women at 8:30 a.m., and the walkers did a 4k starting at 9:00 a.m.  For the first time, the walker field was allowed to walk inside the zoo, entering nearly two miles into the event.  The mass of humanity overwhelmed the zoo grounds, and at the end it was difficult to exit the gates due to the sheer numbers.


In the men’s race, Scott Collins, 27, of Rochester, was the class of the field.  His time through the first mile was 4:42, seven seconds faster than his pace a year earlier when he finished second.  He hit 9:42 at two miles and crossed the finish line in 15:17, a comfortable 47 seconds ahead of second place finisher Mike Holik, 28, of Grass Lake.  The event record holder Rich Stark was in the field; however, highway construction, detours, and the usual parking shortage caused him to arrive late.  Despite a gallant effort to work his way through the field, he finished 8th in 17:39.  In the men’s master race, Pete Hallop again proved to be the class of the field with his third consecutive victory in this event in a time of 17:00.


In the women’s 5k, the favorite was Laurel Park, 36, who had won the race the past four years.  This year, she led the first two miles with split times of 5:21 and 11:09, establishing a ten-second lead over the trailing field that included Laura Murphy, 35, of Rochester.  At two and a half miles, Murphy caught Laurel and, at the finish, Park’s four-year reign had ended as Murphy took a five-second victory 17:36 to 17:41.


The women’s master field was not far back.  Robin Sarris-Hallop’s time of 18:09 gave her a second straight victory in the race, matching her husband Pete, and placed her fourth overall for female finishers.  Janis Puskar, 40, of Canton, took her fourth title as the first breast cancer survivor, finishing in 25:39.


The race nearly topped 25,000 with a total of 24,531 and had 170 teams with 8,895 team participants.  Over 1,100 survivors ran and walked.  The total raised was $500,000, an increase of over $100,000 from the 1998 race.


April 15, 2000


In the year 2000, 107 Race for the Cure events were held throughout the country.  The Detroit race saw 29,391 entrants (nearly double the size of that year’s Boston Marathon) line up at the various times for the event.  Getting to the zoo on time, always a challenge, was even more so this year.  Construction at Beaumont Hospital eliminated their parking area.  Arrangements were made with Hazel Park Raceway to shuttle runners to and from the event.


At the 8:00 a.m. men’s start, the temperature was 60º and, in fact, may have been too hot for this time of year.  An unfamiliar runner, Chris Wallaert, 30, of Edwardsville, IL, took the lead from the start and ran to the most decisive winning margin in the history of the event.  In town for a wedding, he crossed the finish line in 15:49, a minute and nine seconds ahead of second place finisher Brett Sanborn, 33, of Rochester Hills.  Mark Kossak, 42, of Huntington Woods, finished 11th overall and took the master title in 17:43.


In the women’s competition, 1999 winner, Laura Murphy, ran a steady pace, clocking 5:48 at the mile and 11:38 at two.  She finished with a time of 18:20, eight seconds faster than the second place finisher. In the master’s competition, Robin Sarris-Hallop continued her domination of the women’s field, finishing with a time of 19:09.  The top survivor was Jill Belfore, 37, of Troy, in 25:20.


The 9:00 a.m. walk start, on the I-696 service drive, had such a large crowd that it took the last of the walkers thirty-five minutes just to clear the STARTING LINE!  This group included many of the 11,000 participants who were on the 122 teams.  Ford alone had 3,436 team members.  There were 1,313 breast cancer survivors as well as thousands of others.


April 21, 2001


The tenth anniversary of the race brought a long overdue new site for the event.  Throughout the first nine years, the race was held at the Detroit Zoo.  Most of the race route wound through scenic, but small, Huntington Woods.  While the event grew each year, the site did not.  With this growth, alternate sites were suggested.  Some offered facilities and parking but no route; others had a route and facilities but no parking; yet, others provided parking and a route but no facilities.  Countless hours were spent exploring new venues. Then, Comerica Park was built in downtown Detroit, and the decision was made to move the event downtown.


The parking problem was immediately alleviated.  The event was set up in the parking lots in front of Comerica Park and the concourse immediately inside. Unfortunately, last-minute directives, dictated by the mayor’s office just nine days prior to the event changed the route.  The certified, marked course had to be re-measured, re-marked, and the old markings had to be removed.  The route imposed on the race was not desirable.


Runners now had to start on a side street just north of Comerica Park, and the walkers started on Woodward Avenue after the runners turned in front of them.  The route went north on Woodward, turned for the return a little more than a mile and a quarter into the race, and returned on a street parallel to Woodward.  On the return, the walkers split back to Woodward and the runners circled Comerica Park, finishing on a too-narrow street in front of the stadium.


The temperature was 55º, but overcast and gloomy.  About an hour before the start, a slow, steady rain began to fall.  It stopped, started, and stopped again.  Later in the morning, just as the awards ceremony ended, the skies broke loose into a deluge that quickly cleared the area of everyone.


With this new site, it was now possible to start all of the events at the same time.  In the women’s competition, Laurel Park, 38, of Ann Arbor, was first across the finish line in 17:34.  This was her fifth title, half of the ten races that had been run.  Nancy Cassel (Grayson) led the master women in 19:37. At age 50, she finished 7th overall in taking her fourth master title.  In the survivor category, Merion Knight, 64, of Detroit, led the survivors to the finish line in 26:27.


For the men, Will Browder, 29, of Macomb, led the field in 16:19.  Finishing eighth overall was the first master, Tim Emmett, 45, of Royal Oak, in 17:11.


This year, 159 teams with nearly 12,000 participants competed.  Ford again topped the total with 3,864 team members.  Thirty-one states and Canada contributed to the 27,013 participants.  It had been anticipated that the move to Detroit might result in a decline in participants.  Even  with this drop, however, the race was an enormous success, netting proceeds of $778,790.18.  As the year ended, Jane Hoey, who had served as the race chair since the first race, retired and a new Karmanos event director, Maureen Meldrum, was appointed.


April 20, 2002


A new city administration and a new course gave new direction to the 11th annual race.  The race route area on Woodward Avenue was completely closed to traffic.  The runners started on Woodward, about three blocks north of Comerica Park, and the walkers started on Woodward at Comerica Park.  At the start, the contestants lined up across the full nine lanes of Woodward, and, for the first time in the history of the race, the runners were able to clear the starting line in quick order.  About 1-1/4 miles into the race, the field made a turn-around on three streets and then returned south on Woodward, with the leaders running into the mass of runners, through to a lane cleared by race officials and the police, to the eventual finish at Comerica Park.


Weather for the morning was brisk but tolerable, in the high 40’s, with a slight drizzle that stopped early before many participants had arrived. Prior to the race, Tom Brady, former University of Michigan star and then quarterback of the Super Bowl Champions, the New England  Patriots, gave a talk at the Ford breakfast that was held at Hockeytown.  Ford’s membership numbers in the team competition again rose to 4,162.  The total number of registered participants hovered at 25,000, with the official total being 24,786 – down for the second year.  Nonetheless, this was the fifth year participation exceeded 20,000.


In the race, Dave Peterson, 35, of Farmington, led the field through the mile in 5:15 and held the lead through 2-3/4 miles until his legs felt the effect of his run at the Boston Marathon just five days earlier.  He was passed by Eric Larsen, 31, of Fenton, who won the race in 16:32 to Dave’s 16:39.  Right behind these two was the first master, Tom Yates, 40, of New Boston, in 16:54.  A year earlier, he had finished second overall in the race.


In the women’s competition, Rachel Graybill, 32, of Troy, led for a mile in 5:50.  A half mile later, she was passed by Nicole Blake, 17, of Sterling Heights, who came through two miles in 11:48.  This high school junior, an All-State cross-country runner, held the lead to finish in 18:17, with Graybill behind her in 18:22.  Winning her fifth master title in this race was Nancy Cassel, 51, of Northville, in 19:38.


This year, a record 1,500 breast cancer survivors took part in the activities.  Judy Pickett, 38, of Camperon Park, California, led the way in 20:00, the second fastest survivor time ever for the race.  For Pickett, this was the 61st time she had run in a Race for the Cure event and her 47th time placing first.


June 21, 2003


After eleven years of unpredictable April weather, the Race for the Cure moved to a more friendly June date.  Temperatures were in the mid-70’s, a fine day for running and walking.  However, the change of date also dropped the crowd to about 21,000.  Perhaps too many summer activities played a role in this decrease.


With about 45 minutes to the starting time, a frantic race official rushed to the finish line to report that a construction crew had begun digging a hole on the route a quarter of a mile from the finish, in the street at the southeast corner of Comerica Park.  Other officials went to the area and found that the pavement had been broken and a hole three to four feet deep and about six feet by six feet wide had already been dug, with the crew continuing their excavation.  After an explanation to the crew foreman, the work stopped, barricades were erected, and many course marshals were brought over and eventually guided the runners through the area without a mishap.


Not knowing about any of this, the racing field got off to a fine start, with a group of lead men coming through the mile in 4:59.  At two miles, Matt Daly, 20, of Livonia, and Brett Sanborn, 36, of Rochester Hills, had broken away from the pack, racing through that point in 10:03.  During the last mile, Daly opened a gap that stretched to thirteen seconds over Sanborn and finished in 15:33 a record for the Comerica course.  However, the race record of 14:59, set in 1998, remained.  Tom Yates, 41, of New Boston, led the master’s field for the second straight year, finishing in 17:09 and eighth overall.


In the women’s competition, the previous year’s second place finisher, Rachel Graybill, 33, of Detroit, and five-time race winner, Laurel Park, of Ann Arbor, set the pace from the start.  Running together, they came through the first two mile points in 5:35 and 11:18.  In the last mile, Graybill pulled away to finish in 17:31.  However, Park, now 40, won the master title in 17:55, knocking three seconds off the old mark set in 1995.  The first breast cancer survivor was Maureen Martinez, 41, of Grosse Pointe Park, in 24:51.


June 5, 2004


The 2004 race had a racing field that topped 24,000 – an increase of nearly 4,000 from the previous year.  Temperatures in the high 60’s made for a crowd-pleasing day.  The previous year’s winner, Matt Daly, led from the start and was running faster than a five-minute per mile pace.  With a little more than a quarter mile left, the pace car approached a mass of walkers who stretched the entire width of Woodward.  The police car slowed, turned on its lights and siren, and masses parted slightly.  At first, there was not enough room for the car.  Without breaking stride, Daly passed the pace car and managed to run through the crowd.  By this time, the lane had been opened and the runners behind Daly made it through unobstructed.


At the finish, Daly had improved on his 15:33 course record of the previous year with a new time of 15:13.  He claimed that the lack of a close competitor, not the thick crowd on Woodward, kept him from running faster.  His nearest competitor finished exactly one minute behind him.  The first master was Larry Parker of Eastpointe.  At age 55, he finished in 18:09 and was the oldest master to take a title in this race.


Up front, the women’s race was closer than the men’s.  The previous year’s third and fifth place finishers Kristie Kieffer, 22, of Sterling Heights, and Amie Kaznicki, 27, of Springfield, finished in 18:23 and 18:43 respectively, with each improving on their 2003 times.  


Nancy Cassel, of Northville, now 54, topped the master’s field for the sixth time.  She finished 8th overall in 20:21. The first breast cancer survivor was Janice Conroy, 35, of Lake Orion, in 25:24.  This was the first year a male breast cancer survivor ran in the race.  Jim Fontella, 58, of Maple Grove, increased the public’s awareness that breast cancer strikes approximately 2,000 men each year, an important but little known fact.  This year saw a record 1,500 survivors in the event.  There were nearly 350 teams, with the Ford Motor Company again the largest with 2,800 participants.  Support also came from Detroit’s professional teams – the Tigers, Pistons, Shock, and Jaguars, who had wives, cheerleaders, and others participating.  The race funded over $760,000 in local breast cancer programs and $250,300 in national breast cancer research.


 June 11, 2005


A hot, humid day with temperatures in the mid-80’s made this the warmest race date in the race series.  The total number of participants increased for the third year to 25,207 – the second largest since the race moved to the downtown venue.  This year, the race partnered with the Detroit Festival of the Arts that was being held the same weekend midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center, located just north of the race turn around point.  


In the men’s competition, a master runner, David Watkins, 43, of Birmingham, took top honors in 16:53.  This was the first time a master runner had finished first overall in the race.  In doing so, he was eleven years older than any other first place finisher.  His time, however, was the slowest of any male champions and, on this day, he was the only runner under seventeen minutes.


The women’s competition was similarly won with the slowest time in the history of the event.  Becca Rudey, 18, of Wixom, placed first in 18:33, the only woman to run the course faster than nineteen minutes.  The first master finisher, Linda Ewing, 44, of Grosse Pointe, finished fourth overall in 19:47.  The breast cancer survivor field continued to grow this year with 1,800 registered for all events.  Barbara Cunningham, 43, of Traverse City, led this group with a time of 25:18.


The race generated a record $1,431,000 with $926,500 going to metro Detroit breast cancer programs and nearly $300,000 to breast cancer research grants through the Komen Foundation.


June 10, 2006


With temperatures in the low 70’s, the runners, walkers, and others at the event found this a relief from the scorching weather of the previous year.  Ryan Piipo, 27, of Royal Oak, and David Watkins set the pace in the men’s race with Piipo taking top honors in 16:12.  Watkins, 44, followed him to the line in 16:20, a 33-second improvement over a year ago.


For the women, Aime Forte-Kuznicki, 29, of Davisburg, and Marybeth Reader, 37, of West Bloomfield, kept close contact the entire distance, with Forte-Kuznicki taking a five second victory 18:39 to 18:44.  The first master finisher and first survivor finisher was Judy Pickett, 42, of Camperon Park, California, in 20:54.  Pickett had been the top survivor in Detroit’s 2002 race as well. In 1998, after completing chemotherapy, she vowed to run in one hundred different Cure races.  Since that time, she continues on, despite two recurrences and surgery.  This race was her 122nd.


This year, with participants again hovering around 25,000, and with 402 teams, the total raised was $1,700,000.


June 16, 2007


The 2007 race saw another husband and wife compliment each other with victories. Taking the men’s title was Ovidiu Olteanu, 36, of Novi, in 15:31. First for the women was his wife Denisa Costescu, 31, 16:42.  Both were formerly from Romania, where Ovidiu was the country’s only sub-four-minute miler and an Olympian.  Denisa competed on several national teams, and, in this race, set a downtown course record and, by two seconds, missed running the fastest women’s time ever for the event.  Her winning time was over two minutes ahead of her nearest competitor.


The first master finishers were Vincent Jesudowich, 40, of Northville, in 16:48, and Linda Ewing, 46, of Grosse Pointe, in 19:24.  This was Ewing’s second master victory in the series. Wendy Schrag, 42, of Pleasant Ridge, led the survivors in 21:52.


The number of participants and supporters gathering at Comerica Park was estimated to be 30,000.  The result broke all previous Detroit records, raising more than $2,000,000.  Nearly $1.3 million of this amount went to local programs and $350,000 to the national body.  The Friends for the Cure, a Detroit group formed in 1997, raised over $900,000 for the cause.


May 31, 2008


With temperatures hovering in the low 70’s, Steve Menovcik, 39, of Lansing, enjoyed a comfortable winning margin of thirty-eight seconds over the second place finisher and first master, Dave Peterson, 41, of Farmington, with a time of 15:53 to 16:31.


There was unusual excitement in the women’s race when a middle school age student, Promise Vos, 13, of Dearborn Heights, crossed the finish line first in 19:03.  As she walked through the finish chutes, officials asked her if she had run the entire distance.  She had, and she became the youngest winner ever in the event.  She finished sixteen seconds ahead of second place finisher, Stephanie Stieb, 26, of Detroit, and thirty-six seconds ahead of third place finisher, Amie Forte-Kuznicki, who won the race in 2006.  Becky Mincheff, 44, of Oregon, Ohio, won the master title, this year in 20:14.  Michele Hendrick, 38, of Bloomfield Hills, was the first breast cancer survivor in 21:15.


The event raised nearly $2.3 million in the fight against breast cancer.  A record $1.58 million funded programs in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties.  Additionally, $676,000 was contributed to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Award and Research Grant Program.


May 30, 2009


This year celebrated the 18th edition of Detroit’s Race for the Cure.  Steve Menovich returned from his 2008 victory and, now age 40, was in the master’s pision.  However, aging one year had not slowed him down, as he again took top honors, nine seconds faster this year, in 15:44.  Alex Townsend, of Detroit, finished second in 15:56, at age 19 – just slightly more than half the winner’s age.


For the women, forty was also the winning age.  Marybeth Reader, 40, of Bloomfield Hills, led the field by thirty seconds, finishing in 18:45.  Vanessa Finlay, 22, of Armada, followed her to the finish line.  The first survivor was Amy Krzyzanowski, 40, of Plymouth, in 20:31.  She was also the seventh overall finisher in the women’s competition.


Again, the event raised over $2,000,000 to help fight breast cancer.  The crowd of over 30,000 had 507 teams, with Ford the largest with 1,731 members.  There were 1,574 registered survivors this year.  Twenty-two musical groups, a number that had grown enormously from the small initial group that performed at the zoo site, added to the festivities by performing along the route.  10,000 pink ribbons lined the race route, while 1,255 volunteers and over forty volunteer photographers made this event spectacular.


May 22, 2010


Wayne State University was well represented at the 2010 race.  The university is located just one block from the turn-around point in the race.  Wayne State does not have a track program; however, four members of its cross-country team proved that they were capable of staying in shape after their season ended in November, 2009.


Leading the university contingent and finishing first in the race was Matt Fecht, 26, of Warren, in 15:14.  An All-American when he ran at Wayne, he now serves as an assistant coach.  Two sophomores followed him to the finish line – Kevin deBear, 20, of Plymouth, and Alex Townsend, 20, of Farmington Hills, in 15:22 and 15:40 respectively.  During their 2009 season, both were members of the United States Track and Field Cross-Country Coaches Association All-Academic Team.


Not to be left out was the first woman finisher in the race, Lauren Kessler, 21, of Ionia, in 18:14.  A junior at Wayne State University, she was also a member of the All-Academic Team and had been selected “Top Runner of the Week” during the past season.  Dori Downey, 39, of Grosse Pointe Park, finished in second place in 18:45.  Dori is the daughter of Alexa Kraft, who the Detroit Race for the Cure series is dedicated to and in memory of whom the Breast Cancer Survivor Award is presented.


Steve Menovich, 41, of Grand Ledge, led the men’s master field in 15:55.  After winning this race the past two years, he finished fourth overall this year, behind the Wayne State University trio.  Peggy Griffin, 43, of Birmingham, was the top female master with a time of 20:51.  Leading the survivors for the second year was Amy Krzyzanowski, 41, of Plymouth.  Her time of 20:09 was a 22-second improvement over her 2009 victory.


As in nearly every Detroit race, monetary records were set.  Over $2.3 million was raised, with $1.55 million going to local screening, education, and treatment programs.  $428,000 was given to Komen’s National Research Grant Program.  Since the first race in 1992, the Komen Detroit Race for the Cure has raised more than $19.3 million.  Registration for the event has increased 15% to 28,583 runners and walkers and a crowd in excess of 35,000 on race day that included 1,800 survivors and 600 teams.


May 21, 2011


The 20th Annual Detroit Race for the Cure


The Detroit Race for the Cure celebrated its 20th year at Comerica Park.  This was the 29th year that Race for the Cure events have been held throughout America, and the series has been expanded to include several foreign countries.  This year, over 120 races were held with over a million participants.  Since that first race in 1982, over $1.5 billion has been invested in the search for a cure for breast cancer.


  A sunny day made for great racing conditions as Matt Fecht, 27, of Warren took top honors for the second straight year and set a race record as he hit the finish line in 14:52.  Finishing second was Alex Townsend, 21, of Farmington in 15:20, moving up a spot from a year earlier when he had finished third to his Wayne State coach Matt Fecht.  In the master’s pision it was Vince Jesudowich, 44, of Northville in 16:22.  Four years earlier, in 2007, he had also taken top master honors.  


Running together for most of the race were two Detroit women Stephanie Steib, 29, and Anna Weisbrodt, 30.  At the finish, Steib took top honors by seven seconds, 18:33 to 18:41 for Weisbrodt.  Leading the Master women was the first Survivor finisher, Amy Krzyzanowsky, 42, of Plymouth in 20:43.  This was her second year as the top survivor and her second as the first master finisher as well.  The crowd estimate again was in the 35,000 range.


May 26, 2012


The 21st Annual Detroit Race for the Cure


This was a controversial year for the Susan G. Komen Foundation which sponsors the race.  In January, the organization cut funding for breast exams given at Planned Parenthood, but the decision was overturned later in the year.  The numbers may have been down slightly but the weather, predicted rain that that began to fall with many finishing as the first drops fell, the controversy or both may have contributed.


The racing scene was the same as the year before as Matt Fecht, 28, of Warren and Alex Townsend, Detroit both representing Wayne State University again finished first and second 15:27 and 15:46.  This was Matt’s third straight victory.  This race was also a comeback in this event for Steve Menovcik 43, of Grand Ledge.  In 2008 he won the event and a year later, then a Master, took both the Master and Open title.  In 2009 he was again the top Master finisher and added a third title this year in 16:48.


Klare Essad, 21, a Michigan State University athlete from West Bloomfield ran the fastest woman’s time in fpur years in 17:51.  Her nearest competitor was Denisa Costescu, 36, of Commerce Township in 18:18.  In 2007 Denisa had won the race in 16:42, a time that is the second fastest time ever in the race.  The woman’s master race was a tight one with Xiaolu Shi, 44, of Troy taking the title by 6 seconds over Elizabeth Putt-Kraft, 40, of Shelby Township 21:02 to 21:08.  Elizabeth is the daughter of Alexa Kraft the woman that the annual Survivor award is named for.  Amy Krzyzanowski, 43, of Plymouth took the Survivor title for the third straight year in 21:34.  The race generated $2.3 million dollars for the cause.


May 18, 2013


The 22nd Annual Detroit Race for the Cure


Another clear 70 degree day and crowd of 30,000 plus brought similar results for the third straight year as Matt Fecht, 28, of Warren outlasted Alex Townsend, 23, of Farmington 15:40 to 15:53.  This was Matt’s fourth straight victory and Alex’s third second place to go along with his third place finish in 2010.  This continued the Wayne State University, coach and athlete domination of the race over the last four years.  The winner of the 2007 race, Ovidiu Olteanu, 42, of Commerce, the former Romanian Olympian, led the Master field in 16:40 and finished fifth overall in the race.


This year, Wayne State Freshman, Kayla Balfour, 18, of St. Clair led the women to the finish line in 20:10.  The first master woman was Amy Krzyzanowski, 44, of Plymouth in 21:43.  This was her third top Master finish and her fourth in a row as the first Survivor.


June 7, 2014


The 23rd Annual Detroit Race for the Cure


The race site was moved to Chene Park with a new route going east on Jefferson Avenue, turning before Grand Blvd, retuning on Jefferson to the Detroit RiverWalk and finishing along the river near Chene Park.  This change was because of construction on Woodward Avenue for the new Q-line streetcar system. The move caused a drop in participation.


This year was closest finish ever in the race as the top two were one second apart.  Finishing first was David Stewart, 22, of Mason in 16:27 with Custak Tamashunor, 25, of Plymouth in 16:28.  This was the first time in seven years that the top finisher had not cracked sixteen minutes.  Leading the Master men was Ovidiu Olteanu, 43, Commerce, for the second year in a row in 17:05.  The Master’s competition was quite competitive as Ovidiu was the fourth overall finisher in the race and right behind him in fifth and sixth place were the next two master runners.


Wayne State Sophmore Kayla Balfour, 19, of St. Clair returned to defend her title and led the woman’s field in 19:22 nearly a minute faster then her 2013 victory.  Leading the woman’s master field, as well as, the Survivor’s was Amy Krzyzanowski, 45, of Plymouth in 21:35.  This was the fourth time that she led all of the Master women and her sixth Survivor victory.


May 16, 2015


The 24th Annual Detroit Race for the Cure


It was back to Chene Park for the second year as work on the Q-line continued on Woodward.  The course had some slight changes but remained basically the same.  Rain at race time and sixty degree temperatures greeted many of the finishers as they approached and crossed the finish line.  Hunor Csutak, 26, of Plymouth took top honors in 15:56.  A year earlier he had finished second by one second in this event’s closest finish.  Roman Krzyzanowski, 44, of Plymouth led the Master men in 17:29.  In 2011 he turned forty and that year and the next three, 2012, 2013 and 2014 had finished second in the Master’s pision.  This year he topped Ovidiu Olteanu who had beaten him the past two years.


Leading the women was Angela Matthews, 30, of Livonia in 15:58.  A successful area high school runner who went to Concordia University in Seward Nebraska and was a member of their 2004 - 2005 Hall of Fame cross-country team, she returned to the area and has dominated many of the races she has entered since then.  The first master woman was Elizabeth Putti, 43, from Shelby Township in 20:58.  Behind her in second place was the top Survivor Amy Krzyzanowski, 46, Plymouth in 21:26 taking her seventh straight Survivor title.


May 21, 2016


The 25th Annual Detroit Race for the Cure


This was the third year at Chene Park.  Hunor Csutak, 27, Plymouth defended his 2015 championship in 15:53 with a decisive minute and a half lead over the second place finisher.  Roman Krzyzanowski, 45, of Plymouth who was the runner finishing second overall in 17:24 was able to defend the Master’s championship that he had won in 2015.


Leading the women finishers was Brieanna Schofield, 20, of Belleville in 20:27.  A Junior at Concordia University she had a comfortable ten second lead over the second place finisher.  Leading the Masters and Survivors for the fifth time was Amy Krzyzanowski, 47, Plymouth in 21:47.  By taking the Master title she joined her husband Roman as the leading master’s of both pisions.  The second place master finisher was Ella Willis, 57, of Detroit in 21:59.  Ella had been the overall winner of the first Detroit Race for the Cure in 1992 in 17:58.


May 13, 2017


The 26th Annual Detroit Race for the Cure


The race this year returned to Comerica after three years at Chene Park.  The move from Comerica was caused by the building of the Qline along Woodward from Campus Martius to Grand Blvd.  In an interesting sidelight, the 3.3 mile street car line opened the day before this year’s race with one of the stops right at Comerica and the race site.  To get people used to the new service, rides were free for several weeks and many in the race crowd took advantage of the offer.


This also caused a new 5K route to be developed since the popular Woodward one was no longer available because of the Qline  The runners and walkers now started at the east end of Comerica, headed to Gratiot Avenue going east past Eastern Market to the Dequindre Cut to Lafayette Avenue eventually going north and back across Gratiot to the finish on the south side of the Stadium.  There were traffic problems caused by passing Eastern Market.


Slowing down from his past two victorys in under 16:00, in this race Huner Csutak, 28, Plymouth finished third in 18:09.  The new champ was Alex Bowman, 28, Detroit in 17:20 the slowest men’s winning time since the race began.  The first woman finisher was Denisa Costescu, Commerce, in 19:19.  Denisa was the woman’s winner in the 2007 and this year was the overall fifth place finisher in the race and at age 41 she was also the top master finisher.  This was only the second time in the race’s history that a master woman was also the overall winner.  The men’s master winner was John Tarkowski of Northville in 20:16.  Like the overall winner this was the slowest Master winning time in the race.  However, much must be said about John’s performance since at age 64 he gave 24 years to his younger opponents as a master.  For the ninth straight year the first survivor, running under a new name, Amy Masternak, 48, finished in 21:56.


May 5, 2018


The 27th Annual Detroit Race for the Cure


The second year back to Comerica Park was good for Alex Bowman as the race champ improved his time of a year ago by over a minute from 17:20 to 16:16. A year earlier he had taken the title by 31 seconds over his nearest competitor.  This year, much of the race was all to himself as he had over a minute lead on the second place finisher.  The Master’s competition that is for all athletes age forty and older was led by two runners well above that age.  Scott Fiske, 53 of St. Clair Shores led the field in 19:16.  Scott is also the Michigan representative for the Road Runners Club of America.  His closest competitor was last year’s winner John Tarkowski, now age 65, in 21:12.


The women were led by Hannah Shellenbarger, 23 of South Lyon in 21:06.  Just short of a minute behind her was Amy Masternak, the third woman finisher overall in 22:04.  This Detroit school teacher, has nearly dominated this race as both a top master and Survivor finisher since 2009.  During that span she has been the top Survivor for eleven straight years and also added six women’s master titles as well.  Traffic for Eastern Market along Gratiot Avenue and points north continued to be badly affected by the race.  It appeared that something would need to be done to avoid this in future races


May 11, 2019


The 28th Annual Race for the Cure


After two years of traffic congestion around Eastern Market the 5K route was changed.  The new route now went north of the Market and added distance on the popular Dequindre Cut.  Because the race was held the day before Mother’s Day traffic was more intense than usual at Eastern Market as shoppers flocked to get flowers for the holiday.  Fortunately the Detroit Police were able to keep the traffic and race flowing.


The central location of the event site at Comerica Park along with the race route continued to a popular one for walkers and runners.  On this day the woman’s race was a most competitive one.  Hannah Shellenbarger was able to defend the title he won in 2018 with an improved time of 20:42.  She needed that improvement as the second place woman, Tehdai Thomas,of Farmington Hills was just fifteen seconds behind her in 20:57.  Tendai, at age 44 was the top woman Master  over Amy Masternak who was able to hold on the Top Survivor title for the twelfth time.


In the men’s race it was a lonely time for Cortland Seaver, 31, of Freeland.  Running alone he hit the finish line in 18:17. That was the slowest men’s winning time in the history of the race.  After he finished, there was a there was still over a minute and a half until the second place finisher crossed the line.  The top men’s Master finisher was Jeff Hunt, 49, of Rochester in 21:09.


May 2, 2020


The 29th Annual Race for the Cure


Join the Detroit Race for the Cure at Comerica Park for its 29th year celebration!  This will be the 37th year that Race for the Cure events have held throughout the world.  The race began in Dallas in1983 with 800 participants.  Now there are 140 events globally including 14 internationally with well over a million participants.  Since the first race, over $2 billion has been invested in the search for a cure for breast cancer. 

Comments