Lost Lake Breath of Life Run

Pat & Christalyn Simpson from Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church

UPCOMING: The Lost Lake Breath of Life Run is Aug. 25, starting at the Primrose Campground outside Seward. The 16-mile race covers the Lost Lake Trail and raises money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Entries postmarked or made online by 11:59 p.m. Friday are $100. After that, the cost is $200 for entries received by Aug. 3. Go to http://www.lostlakerun.org/ for details or to sign up.

THE COURSE: Last year's winners, Jerry Ross and Kristi Waythomas of Anchorage, finished in 1 hour, 41 minutes, 41 seconds and 2:01:40, respectively. The 16-mile mountain run climbs 2,100 feet before descending sharply to the finish line. Last year, it drew 442 runners, who helped raise money to fight cystic fibrosis.


Anchorage Daily News: June 27, 2007)

Marsha Vincent can rest easier now that new life has been breathed into the Lost Lake Breath of Life Run. Vincent is the founder of the popular 16-mile cross-country mountain race that spans the Lost Lake Trail outside Seward. She's worked 15 years to make the race one of the top events for Alaska cross-country runners and one of the biggest fundraisers in the state for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Now she has passed the responsibility of organizing the race to an Anchorage couple. Like Vincent, Patrick and Christalyn Simpson have been touched by the deadly, genetically-inherited disease that robs its victims of the ability to breathe and live normal, active lives.

The Simpsons have two children with the disease, one of whom died at age 18 in November. "Our goal in the first year is to (run the race) just like Marsha did it," Patrick Simpson said. "To keep the integrity and quality that she worked so hard to establish."

Still, there are a few changes for this year's race, which takes place Aug. 25 and is limited to 600 participants. The biggest is the addition of a team category, allowing four-member teams. Simpson said he hopes the team concept will not only get more racers signed up but will encourage more fundraising -- a minimum of $5,000 per team is required -- for the CF Foundation.

"Their $100 registration fee goes toward that total, so it's actually $4,600 they'll need to raise," Simpson pointed out. "But it's easier than it sounds, especially with sponsorships, which teams can get (easier than individuals)."
Another change is the way runners can enter. Because Lost Lake is so popular, the race can fill up fast. This year, Simpson said, any spots remaining after Aug. 3 will be put on eBay for auction, with bids beginning at $300.

More than anything, Vincent is glad the race will continue. In September, Vincent decided to step back from organizing the event that had consumed much of her life over the last 15 years. But she worried that the $60,000-70,000 the race raises each year might vanish -- money that helps support further CF research. She acknowledges she is lucky -- her two sons are in their 30s and managing their CF. But others, such as the Simpsons' son Zachary, aren't so lucky. Depending on the severity of the disease, many do not live past their high school years. Some won't even reach their first birthdays.

Zac Simpson was the 2005 South High prom king his senior year, a talented musician and a fan of soccer, particularly World Cup soccer. In 2004, he was presented with the Spirit of Youth award and selected as the Children's Miracle Network Champion for Alaska. He packed a lot into his short 18 years. "When (Zac) died, I asked Pat, 'Are you sure you want to keep doing this?' and he looked at me and said, 'Marsha, it makes me more determined than ever to keep going,' " Vincent said.

In organizing this year's race, the Simpsons created Lost Lake Run, Inc., in January, which formally recognizes the event as a nonprofit. Vincent will serve on the board of directors. In fact, Simpson said they could not run this year's race without Vincent, and have created the Marsha Vincent Award for the most successful fundraiser. "We have an infrastructure in place that will allow the race to run smoothly," he said. "It's still going to be a running-centric race, runner-based, so we can draw the top athletes."

Yet the race also will ramp up its fundraising efforts. Over the past 15 years, Lost Lake has donated nearly $600,000 to research efforts. "I think Pat's direction is a good way to go with the race," Vincent said. "Because he's been involved in the (Great Strides Cystic Fibrosis) walk, he has connections and experience with that. He saw a good way to encourage people to get more sponsorship with the teams, and I think people will like it." Also, Vincent said today's participants -- whether they cross the finish line in less than two hours or take all day walking the trail -- are more conscious of where their entry fee goes.

"I think people like to know that they are doing something they love, but they are also helping," she said. "It seems a more humanitarian way." Pat Simpson said about 150 racers have signed up, and 20-30 more sign up each week. Many participants wait until later in the summer to sign up. "A lot of the elite mountain racers, they wait and see how their season is going," she said.
Those who wait until after Friday will for the privilege. The $100 entry fee doubles after Friday.

As for Vincent, she's not sure she will be at this year's race. She might go to Fox Island for a weekend getaway instead. "It's bittersweet," she said. "It's hard to let go. But Pat and Chrisalyn are doing a great job. I'm really comfortable with them taking over."


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