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March 1, 2013

On The Run: Running with a purpose

The North Shore Road Race Guide (NSRRG) held its first awards ceremony last week to recognize the top races in the area, as voted on by runners and the folks behind the guide, Tim Short and Doug Bollen. I had the honor of handing out some of the awards, so I had a close-up view of the event, which will be held annually.

But what really stood out was the emotional power in the stories that race directors told about why their races were held and where the funds go.

The most stirring of those came from Sharon Pacione, talking about Gabe’s Run, the cross country race held each year on the day after Thanksgiving in memory of her son, Gabriel.

At the NSRRG awards, Gabe’s Run won an Honorable Mention award for Best Trail Race, but Pacione’s heartfelt words really hit home with the event’s attendees. The race was launched in 2008 after Gabe’s death in a car accident shortly after graduating from Hamilton-Wenham High School. It raises money for Gabe’s Fund, which awards scholarships to college-bound students; Gabe was a track and cross country star and multiple-time Salem News Runner of the Year who was headed to Dartmouth College before his untimely death.

Accepting the award last week, Sharon Pacione noted that usually her husband Jeff is the one who talks about the race. Gabe’s Run—which includes a 5K, 1-mile fun run and team challenge — celebrates her son’s playful spirit and love of running, giving back to deserving student-athletes. Sharon described how the event has become an emotional homecoming of sorts for Gabe’s teammates and classmates, in addition to a fun challenge for local runners.

The Festivus 5K for Autism, held in December in Salem, won awards for Best First Year Race and an Honorable Mention for Best Race Theme. Race director Cynthia Johnson and her husband Rick described how the race was a way to raise money for the Autism Society and give back to the Salem community that rallied around them after their son was diagnosed with autism. The race drew more than 500 runners and raised $10,000 for the Autism Society. This year’s Festivus 5K is scheduled for Dec. 15.

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