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Father's Day event promotes prostate cancer awareness

| Monday, June 20, 2011, 12:00 p.m.

Jeanne Fletcher ran Sunday morning, pushed by the memories of her father and brother.

Both of them died of cancer.

Her 21-year-old brother succumbed to leukemia in 1970, and her 70-year-old father died of prostate cancer in 1990.

"They got me through this race," said Mt. Lebanon resident Fletcher, 61.

Fletcher ran as a member of Gene's Dream Team, a group of about 25 runners coached by trainer Gene Wright, in the 5K portion of the Ninth Annual Man Up Father's Day 5K/10K Run & Walk for Prostate Cancer.

All the races ended at North Shore Riverfront Park in the Quay opposite Heinz Field.

The Obediah Cole Foundation for Prostate Cancer was the sponsor.

"Our mission is early detection, education, awareness and support," Race Director Jerry Livingston said.

Three prostate cancer survivors, Livingston, Assistant Race Director Jerry Bortman and former Pittsburgh Steeler Robin Cole, founded the foundation. It is named after Cole's father, who died from prostate cancer in 1976, Cole said.

The fundraising goal of Man Up was $50,000, which would support the foundation providing free health screenings for men, particularly those who are uninsured and underinsured. The foundation likely met its fundraising goal, Livingston said.

Since the event's inception, participation has grown steadily, he said.

Last year, there were 2,300 runners and walkers. This year, there were 2,600 participants and 400 spectators, Livingston said.

The second-leading cause of cancer death in American men is prostate cancer, after lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, based in Atlanta. About one in 36 men will die of prostate cancer.

Over the years, the Cole foundation has screened thousands of men for prostate cancer at health fairs and other events. It also focuses on minority communities.

Prostate cancer occurs more often in black men than in men of other races, according to the American Cancer Society.

While 70 percent of prostate cancer cases are diagnosed in men older than 65, the foundation recommends that men 40 and older discuss prostate screenings with their doctors.

"Just like breast cancer, if you catch this early, it's highly treatable," Cole said.

The theme of support for family and friends ran strong Sunday, as runners and walkers sported bibs on their backs with "in honor of" and "in memory of" typed above the names of loved ones who had battled prostate cancer.

West Mifflin resident Michael Mauer, 49, ran the 10K for the fifth year. He has lost several friends he met through VFW Post 914 to prostate cancer, he said.

"Anything I can do to help keep younger men from suffering the way they did is what keeps me going on the track each year," the U.S. Army veteran said.

Washington, Pa., resident Anna Beck, the women's 10K overall winner with a time of 36:41, runs several races a month -- she qualified at the Boston Marathon in April for January's Olympic trials marathon in Houston -- but local races hold a special meaning for her, she said.

"I like doing those because it's for a good cause," she said.

Additional Information:

Top overall winners

Awards were given to participants in various age groups at Sunday's 9th Annual Man Up Father's Day 5K/10K Run & Walk for Prostate Cancer.

The top overall winners and their times:

Open Men 5K: Cesar Gatete, 26, Allison Park: 15:05

Open Women 5K: Laura Harnish, 24, Pittsburgh: 17:52

Open Men 10K: Elijah Shekinah, 33, Pittsburgh: 33:56

Open Women 10K: Anna Beck, 26, Washington, Pa.: 36:41

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