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 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.

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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