When Florence was sick with autoimmune encephalitis (AE), running was an outlet that kept our family going. Whether running together with Florence in the stroller or alone to clear our worried minds, running allowed us to be better parents to Florence and Laura. (Watch a 90 sec video about our story.)
So a road race was a natural choice as we thought about how to bring our community together after Florence died. We started planning the race in October, about five months to the day of the race. We had run plenty of races, but we had never organized a race as the race director. We had a lot to learn!
Thank you, Bull City Running Company
The Florence Forth road race would not have been possible without the support of Kim and Jason from Bull City Running Company. In October, 2012, we sat down with Kim at Fullsteam to discuss our race idea.. Kim listened with tears in her eyes and gratefully agreed to serve as our timing company. Bull City Running has been a central part of every Florence Forth since that day.
The first Florence Forth was a 10 mile race and a 5K run/walk. We wanted an event to both excite competitive racers while also enticing a larger community of youth, walkers and recreational runners. We were fortunate that our friends were so excited by the event. They decided we should have local bakers and restaurants donate baked goods and other post-race treats. On race morning, 15 local restaurants provided food set up on tables across Duke’s East Campus.
We had no idea if anyone would show up
And come you did… 715 people registered that first year. 301 registered for the 10 mile and 414 registered for the 5K. The winners of that first 10 mile race were Mitch VanBruggen in a time of 54:27 and Laura Mortimer with a 1:04:06. The 5K was won by Michael Fucci (17:55) and Maggie Monast (21:48). Congrats to those first winners of Florence Forth.
A Huge Success
Thanks to everyone who ran or donated, we raised $11,115 that first year. We later heard that most first year races lose money. Thankfully, no one told us that before we ran the race. The proceeds from the first year went to support the emerging Duke Autoimmune Brain Disease clinic. This clinic was formed by two of Florence’s doctors at Duke – Dr. Bill Gallentine and Dr. Heather van Mater. In the years since that first donation, the Duke clinic has become a leading center for treating pediatric autoimmune encephalitis.