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Community comes together for annual Charlottesville Women's Four Miler

Thirteen hundred women of all ages walked, ran and jogged on Saturday morning as part of the 41st Charlottesville Women’s Four Miler, the largest all-women’s race in Virginia.

They were cheered on by hundreds of supporters and volunteers, many wearing pink to honor the annual race’s purpose: raising money for the University of Virginia Breast Care Center.

“I don’t think there’s another event that personifies Charlottesville better than this,” said Nancy Webber after the race. She raised her children here and made the trip from Charlotte, North Carolina, to join the Four Miler at Foxfield.

“The entire community comes together to support each other. They cheer just as hard for the winner as they do for the last person,” Webber said.

For the second year in a row, the race was won by Cleo Boyd, a Canadian who has called Charlottesville home since she moved here years ago to attend UVa, where she competed on the track and cross country team.

While Boyd has medaled plenty of times in her running career, the Four Miler’s community atmosphere makes it a special race for her.

“I think it’s maybe a little less competitive, but in a good way,” she told The Daily Progress. “When you’re coming back up the hill, everybody’s cheering for you in the race and that just creates a really unique environment.”

She ran a slightly slower time this year, but still has her eyes set on the course record and plans to keep coming back.

“I love it. I think it’s a great community event and I’ll do it for as long as I’m in town and healthy and feeling good,” she said.

While the event is staged at Foxfield, the actual race took place on Garth Road, which was closed to traffic between Barracks Farm Road and Owensville Road.

As usual, this year’s edition of the Four Miler was attended by local high schools, members of the UVa track team and casual runners alike.

Sadie Adams was a standout, claiming second place at just 16 years old. A junior at Western Albemarle High School, it was her first time being back at the Four Miler since she was in the 8th grade.

“It was different than what I’m used to. I’m used to being on the track and grass but it was really, really fun to be out here in the community for a good cause,” Adams told The Daily Progress.

Her coach, Ann Dunn, won the Four Miler six years ago. She chose not to run this year, instead coaching up and cheering on her athletes from the Formula Track Club. Last year, two more of her club’s runners, also both high schoolers, claimed second and third place.

“Normally it’s unusual that high schoolers would do this well, but they’ve been working at it for probably four years now and they’re pretty good,” Dunn told The Daily Progress.

Adams plans to compete at the college level and will soon be visiting North Carolina State, home of the reigning women’s cross country national champions.

An all-women’s race is rare and a draw for many of the people who registered for the event, which has raised over $4 million since its inception in 1983.

Four decades later, Mary Alice Hostetter and Terry Coffey are still competing in the annual event. Just 35 people showed up to the original Four Miler, Hostetter remembers.

“And then it grew and grew and grew,” she told The Daily Progress. “It’s a great event, oh my gosh.”

Community support from people of all ages helps make the race special for the contestants. Volunteers arrive as early as 5:30 a.m. to help being organizing the long line of cars that park in the grass field.

“You think, ‘Can I really run the entire four miles?’” Coffey said. “And then you get swept up in the wave of energy. It’s amazing.”

“And the track teams from all the local schools, those kids that you know would rather be sleeping in,” Hostetter, winner of the 75 to 79 age group, added. “They’re just out there, ‘Go, go! You got this!’”

The race includes a mother-daughter category, which was won this year by Katie and Mary Manley of the Kicking for Kiki team, named in honor of Katie’s aunt and Mary’s sister-in-law, who passed away four years ago from breast cancer.

“It’s just so special that it’s an all-women’s event. It’s the only race like it and for such a great cause,” Mary Manley told The Daily Progress.

Some 150 of the racers began training in June under the guidance of Pam Whorley, who stood near the finish line loudly cheering on each contestant while dawned in an all-pink outfit, including a hat shaped as a flamingo.

The 11-week program starts with half a mile and ramps up to four miles weeks before the race.

“Today is like watching your kids graduate from college. It’s fabulous,” Whorley told The Daily Progress.

The training program was previously headed by Joan Esposito, who stood on the side of Garth Road yelling words of encouragement to runners passing by. She and Kovvy Hoffman have been competing or volunteering at the event for 25 years. This year they arrived at 5:30a.m. to help park cars.

“It’s always inspirational,” Esposito said. “We come out to support the cause and raise money. That’s what’s most important.”


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