Group training for national dash: Not-for-profit wants to take race beyond hometown

A 2-1/2-year-old Indianapolis not-forprofit that funds melanoma education and research through an annual race hopes to extend its footprint around the country.

Outrun the Sun Inc. has had preliminary talks with a race management firm in Los Angeles, said co-founder and Executive Director Anita Day.

Los Angeles is the headquarters of Neutrogena, which recently agreed to sponsor Outrun the Sun’s annual race. Momentum to take the organization national also picked up this year when it landed Shape magazine and Subaru as sponsors.

Last year, about 2,200 people participated in Outrun’s event at IUPUI.

Outrun the Sun has grown quickly since Day and her sister, Jonna Kane MacDougall, founded it in 2004.

“Until last October, we were operating basically out of our kitchens,” said Mac-Dougall, assistant dean for institutional advancement at IU School of Law-Indianapolis and president of Outrun the Sun.

Today, the organization has an office in a former church-turned-office-building near Glendale Mall.

MacDougall’s and Day’s father died from melanoma about five years ago. It was a disease they knew little about. Eleven days later, friend Gary Patton died from melanoma at the age of 40. His widow, Jennifer Patton, also helped found Outrun.

They sought support from others who had family members with the disease, including John Watts, president of Watts Medical, an Indianapolis orthopedic medical firm. Watts’ brother, James, was diagnosed in 2001, at age 50, and later died.

“The initial meeting was in a bar in Broad Ripple. I thought, ‘No way is this going to get off the ground,'” confessed Watts, now a member of Outrun’s board.

The rapid growth of the organization Watts attributes to Day’s organizational skills and desire to fight back. “She knew she wanted to do something for her dad.”

The first year, the group hired a race management firm, which said the 2005 inaugural run might draw 200 to 300 people.

Instead, close to 1,600 registered.

The ability to attract so many people is more remarkable considering how lowprofile melanoma is compared with cancers more in the public spotlight, said Frank Holland, whose son Bill died from the disease recently, at age 45. Bill was anxious to get the word out and before he died developed a PowerPoint presentation for use in public education.

“It’s not prostrate cancer. It’s not breast cancer. It’s not AIDS,” Holland said. “But people who are involved in it feel pretty strongly.”

Melanoma is on the rise. It’s the No. 1 cancer killer among women ages 20 to 29. While fair-skinned people might be most at risk, the disease cuts across racial lines.

“It is increasing in incidence, it is insidious and yet it should be the easiest to recognize in its earliest stage,” said Keeter D. Sechrist, a board member and a physician at Outrun’s lead local sponsor, Dermatology Inc., in Indianapolis.

Sechrist credits the unusual, 7 p.m., race time as a clever way to catch the public’s attention.

The concept caught the attention of executives high up at Neutrogena, the skin care company Outrun contacted initially just to get some freebies for the race, Day said. She won’t reveal the size of the sponsorship.

But it also opened doors at Shape magazine and at Subaru, which is providing a pace car for next month’s races. Shape ran a full-page advertisement for the race, easily worth tens of thousands of dollars, and in view of an estimated 6 million readers. Watts said the ad drew interest from people in several states. He said there are a handful of melanoma runs, but none with the kind of organizational acumen, catchy name and evening race time. “We’ve had calls from all over the United States,” Watts said. “We’re hoping to carry this on from city to city.” Day said race registrants last year hailed from 20 states. The benefactors? Among them, research at Wake Forest University, in Winston-Salem, N.C. Outrun has also developed programs for K-12 schools. “Our goal,” MacDougall said, “is to put ourselves out of business.”

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