Third Annual “Who Do You Run For?” supports cancer battles with 24-hour run

Cole Anderson, Sports Editor

The weather forecast for this Thursday and Friday is not much different than it has been over the past few days: gloomy and way too cold. While low-to-mid thirties and a couple inches of snow isn’t ideal weather for a 24-hour outdoor running event, this is exactly what the Whitman Cross-Country team has in store.

Now in its third year, “Who Do You Run For?” is an event near and dear to the hearts of athletes on the cross-country team, as well as countless members of Whitman and the greater Walla Walla community. Showing support for cancer-affected families and friends can come in many forms, but for “Who Do You Run For?,” everyone on the cross-country team will run laps around Ankeny at some point throughout the 24 hour period. Someone from the team will be running at all times starting at noon on Thursday and ending at noon on Friday. Anyone else who wants to participate can join for as many laps as they please, whenever they please, and are encouraged to wear a name tag with the name of somebody close to them who has been affected by cancer.

Ellie Patterson, a senior on the women’s team, is one of those for whom the event is especially important.

“It always strikes me just how many people have been affected by cancer. This event is amazing at bringing everyone together [for] a cause that has affected so many of us. We run together for our loved ones who have had cancer, and also for our teammates who have been affected by cancer. It is an amazing act of solidarity that really makes me, and I hope my teammates as well, feel supported,” Patterson said in an email.

Patterson and fellow senior Emily Williams have been central to the planning of the event each year since its inception. Williams reflected on what the event means to her and all those that participate.

“Running means so many things to so many people; for some this event may be a memorial, a victory lap, a celebration of a life well lived, a way to stay strong in the face of adversity,” Williams said.

Though “Who Do You Run For?” encourages anyone affected, directly or indirectly, by any form of cancer to participate, its secondary goal is to raise funds for a donation to an organization that specializes in a particular type of cancer. This year the team decided to run for melanoma.

To Ellie Finnegan, a senior who ran on the team last year, this third annual WDYRF is especially important, as melanoma is the cancer that took her father when she was very young.

“My dad was an outstanding endurance athlete who celebrated life through biking, swimming, skiing and running in the mountains. I like to think that my love of running is a way he has kept his spirit alive within me. ‘Who Do You Run For?’ coincidentally falls on my dad’s birthday this year,” Finnegan wrote in an email. “I cannot think of a better way to say happy birthday from afar than to dedicate my running and the money I raise to my dad, Michael.”

In addition to running for their own personal reasons, athletes on both the women’s and men’s team will be running for those that can’t or don’t want to run, but still want to participate and show their support. Finnegan, Patterson and Williams all expressed the importance of the event not being on the fundraising, but the participation and support.

“This run does not ask for money, it simply asks for you to take time to remember those battles fought and for you to join in solidarity the strong individuals who fight around the clock to survive,” Finnegan said. “Personally, I am most excited to see the number of collective laps around Ankeny we can achieve. To me, this number will more accurately represent our support for those who battle cancer.”

The trio also stressed the increased educational aspects of the event this year.

“I recently learned that 1 in 50 people will be diagnosed with melanoma in their lifetime. This is such a prevalent form of cancer, and I hope that we can use this event as an opportunity to educate people about the risk of melanoma,” Patterson said.

Finnegan, who also designed the logo for this year’s event, used the task as a way to further educate participants.

“The design on our event flier is specific to the event’s dedication to melanoma research. The five suns that orbit “Who Do You Run For?” represent the five characteristics doctors ask people to look for when inspecting their moles. The ABCDE’s of skin cancer are: asymmetry, boarder, color, diameter and evolving,” Finnegan said.

With all three graduating this year, Patterson, Finnegan and Williams are excited to see what the team can accomplish with this year’s event.

“We hope to run over 1,000 miles total around Ankeny, which is something we have achieved in the past two years,” Patterson said.

As for next year and beyond, those graduating would like to see “Who Do You Run For?” continue to gain traction and grow to be an even more successful in the coming years.

“I want to make sure that this event continues because it is so important to me these past three years. I think that this run is special because everyone’s life has been touched by cancer is some way. For me, my grandma and my uncle both died of cancer, so I run for them,” Williams said.

To donate, head over to the event’s donation page: