A unique experience on Cape Cod, no matter how fast you go

Sometimes a race has nothing to do with how fast you go.

Two weeks ago while on vacation on Cape Cod, I had the opportunity to compete in the 1-mile swim/5K-run aquathlon at the annual Against the Tide event in Nickerson State Park.

Every year hundreds of people gather to swim, walk, run and kayak after collecting pledges for the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, which works to prevent breast cancer.

While some of the races that make up the event such as the 1-mile swim (there's also a recreational swim), 5K, 10K and aquathlon are competitive, most of the people are there to honor someone they know with cancer, raise money for the organization's efforts and celebrate the health benefits of being able to swim, run, walk or paddle.

This is the third time I've been involved in the event, having done the mile swim in the past, in the always comfortable and clear waters of Flax Pond.

This year's event had even more meaning as a good friend of mine (I was the best man in her wedding) had recently been diagnosed with cancer for the third time and has been undergoing chemotherapy treatments that will last through the holidays.

So I signed up a week before the event and quickly collected $350 in pledges.

While the thunderstorms that hit shortly before the 8 a.m. start kept some of the participants away, the sun came out a few minutes later and we were off with only a 10-minute delay.

After a swim in which some fast high schoolers left me far in their wake, I was off on a hilly run through the woods.

As I was trying to track down the runner in front of me, I found it easy to lose my concentration, which in this case was a good thing.

That's because all along the trails, there were signs that had inspirational messages for those with cancer and statistics about the disease and research. It made me think how lucky I was to be healthy enough to be out there racing. I also thought about how this was a lot easier than the daily treatments my friend Maura is undergoing for the tumor in her vertebrae and how I'm sure she wishes she was healthy enough to do something like this.

The whole event has such a different feel than your typical race that I felt a little embarrassed about trying to go fast. Most of the people were there to participate, finish and raise money. Mothers ran with daughters and entire families ran together while the many volunteers cheered them. Everyone had a smile on their face. And $138,000 was raised at this event and one earlier in the summer in Hopkinton, Mass.

Hopefully, I'll be back next year.

Record field expected

• Monday's 35th running of the Stratton Faxon New Haven Labor Day Road Race is expected to draw a record field of 7,000 runners.

There's a 20K, 5K or kids' fun run and once again the race hosts the national men's and women's 20K championship. More information is at www.newhavenroadrace.org. There is no race day signup.

On the schedule

• The Charlie Stavros Memorial On the Beach Run will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 5, beginning at a new location, the Westerly Town Beach Pavilion, 365 Atlantic Ave. in Misquamicut.

This out-and-back 3-mile race is a free run on the sand.

For more information go to www.westerlytrackclub.org.

This is the opinion of Day running columnist Joe Wojtas.

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