By 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 back.”
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 time-period 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.”
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.
ALSA C St. Jude
American Printing House for the Blind
Bahkita Empowerment Initiative
Boys & Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana
Cure CF, Inc.
Diamond Blackfan Anemia Foundation
Families for Effective Autism Treatment (FEAT )
Girls Rock Louisville
House of Ruth
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
Kentucky Animal Relief Fund
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Parkinson Support Center
The Arrow Fund
The Lord’s Kitchen
The Molly Johnson Foundation
The Shamrock Pet Foundation
Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon & miniMarathon
Presented by Walmart
7:30 a.m. April 28