PORTLAND – A swarm of some 1,600 runners and walkers amassed by Back Cove on Sunday morning, creating a sea of pink and white as they set off on a 5-kilometer loop that started and ended at Payson Park.

Participants in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure donned T-shirts decorated with the names of their fundraising teams and accessorized with tiaras, boas and sequined hats.

It was Portland’s second year hosting the Race for the Cure, an annual breast cancer fundraising event that started in 1983 and is being held this year in more than 140 cities worldwide. The race is named for an Illinois woman who died from breast cancer in 1980 at age 36.

About 23 minutes after the 10 a.m. start Sunday, friends Alina Burke and Penny Gimpel, wearing pink sports bras and tutus, high-fived as they crossed under an arc of pink and white balloons, marking the finish.

“We always match no matter what,” said Burke, 42, of Auburn.

Although she and Gimpel are avid runners who participate in a lot of races, the Komen race means a little more to them, as the friends and relatives of breast cancer survivors. They said those women’s battles were their inspiration to run hard Sunday, and there was a prevalent thought in Burke’s head throughout the race.

“If they can go through all that, we can get through this,” she said. “It’s a tiny little tribute.”

Through participants in the race, this year’s event raised about $140,000 toward breast cancer awareness and research. That’s $10,000 more than last year, said race organizer Ned Flint. He said there was also an increase of about 300 runners and walkers over last year.

One of the larger contingents came from Bonny Eagle High School, which was represented by 33 girls soccer players. They ran, along with their coach and some parents, to bond as a team and to honor the mother of one of the players.

Ruth Kepron of Standish, whose daughter Nicole is a senior on the team, successfully battled breast cancer about a year ago.

Many other runners, like Kim Murray of Freeport, were breast cancer survivors themselves.

Murray, 49, said other survivors who ran last year’s race inspired her to join in this year. She started training in July.

“It was tough, but I feel great,” she said.

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at

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