One Race, Many Reasons

1By Nicholas Siegel | Photos by Kentucky Derby Festival Official Photographer Jonathan Roberts

If you’ve had the opportunity to attend

The Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon in the

past, you probably know that every participant

has a unique reason for being there. Whether it be

personal growth, community building or running

for a cause they believe in, for these runners, it’s

a lot more than just a race.

One of this year’s participants, Donna Giovenco,

likes to run the marathon because it reminds her

of this time of year. “There is something about this

race that speaks spring to me,” Giovenco said.

“There is something about seeing and feeling the

quiet at (Churchill Downs) and the horses out for

their morning workouts that keeps me coming


For another participant, Heidi Seuling, running

the race over the years has been a great way to

explore her passion of running and to relieve

stress. “It’s very inspiring to see your friends and

fellow runners in the community supporting each

other, supporting fitness, supporting a healthy

lifestyle, supporting happiness and fun at the

same time,” Seuling said. “You’re meeting new

people along the way, you’re encouraging each

other … all of those things together make it such

a positive experience.”

Seuling also touched on the diversity of reasons

for participating. “Someone may be in a timeperiod

where they need to refocus and get back

in shape. Someone may be in a period where

they are really fast and they’re training to qualify

for something,” she said. “One year, I used it as

a qualifying race for Boston. It was my way of

working up to personal goals.”

Both Giovenco and Seuling are also ambassadors

for the marathon, which means they were chosen

to help advocate for the race as past participants.

For them, spreading the word has always been part

of the process, but this gives them an organized

way to sing its praises.

The marathon also gives participants the

opportunity to run for a charity of their choice.

Lara MacGregor with Hope Scarves, a charity

that sends scarves to women battling cancer,

ran the marathon a few times before deciding

to start her organization. “I loved the idea of

combining health, wellness, facing challenges and

supporting our nonprofit organization. After my

cancer diagnosis, I shared pictures of runs around

the world with the hashtag #outrunningcancer,”

MacGregor said.

“As a long time runner, I simply love the energy

of the race. The excitement at the start, the pushing

through when your legs are heavy at mile 10,

the last mile when you realize how strong you

are. Every outrunning cancer race I run, I’ve

cried because each step we take as a team is for

something bigger than ourselves. We run for our

friends, mothers, wives, sisters. We run for those

who can’t and for those who have died of cancer.

We run with the hope that the money we raise will

lead to more treatment options for people like me

living with a terminal illness. We run to feel our

heart pound in our chest and feel how alive we

truly are. We are outrunning cancer, one step at

a time – miles to go, but closer with each step.”2

Run for a Cause

For years, Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon

& miniMarathon runners have used the races

as vehicles to raise awareness and funds

for many local and national charities. The

Kentucky Derby Festival Foundation created a

committee to help oversee the efforts of the

Charity Program. Foundation board members

and volunteers are assigned as liaisons to

help coordinate the fund-raising efforts.

Since the online program was created in 2005,

more than $2 million has been raised for

participating local and national charities.

Benefiting Charities

ALSA C St. Jude

Alzheimer’s Association

American Printing House for the Blind

Bahkita Empowerment Initiative

Boys & Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana

Cure CF, Inc.

Cure SMA

Diamond Blackfan Anemia Foundation

Families for Effective Autism Treatment (FEAT )

Gilda’s Club

Girls Rock Louisville

Hope Scarves

House of Ruth

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

Kentucky Animal Relief Fund

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society


Noah’s Styling

Parkinson Support Center


Summit Academy

The Arrow Fund

The Lord’s Kitchen

The Molly Johnson Foundation

The Shamrock Pet Foundation

Twisted Pink


Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon & miniMarathon

Presented by Walmart

and Humana

7:30 a.m. April 28


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