After being held virtually last year due to the pandemic, Ellen’s Run returned to Southampton Village on Sunday, August 15, in a hybrid form — both virtually and in person, although the location of the race was changed.
Typically held right off the steps of Parrish Memorial Hall at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, the 26th annual 5K race was moved to the Southampton Intermediate School to keep the crowd of runners and walkers a safe distance from the hospital in what is still a pandemic, organizers said.
While it may have been two years since the race enjoyed a live experience, and the location may have been different, officials thought the spirit and the cause of the race was alive and well.
“We felt the race went so beautifully,” said Anne Tschida Gomberg, executive director of the Ellen Hermanson Foundation. “We had so much positive feedback from so many different people, some who came as far away as California, who said they felt the joy and the love from our community. It was really just a beautiful day where we got to share our mission, which is to ensure access to breast cancer health and awareness and the community spirit in that sense was really palpable.”
Proceeds from the race — which hosted around 600 runners this year — benefit the Ellen Hermanson Foundation, which provides breast cancer education, support and research. After 13 years in East Hampton, Ellen’s Run was moved to Southampton in 2009 to coincide with the opening of the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. Both the race and the center are named after race organizer Julie Ratner’s sister, Ellen Hermanson, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 1989. Hermanson, a journalist, sought to educate the public about the disease, the challenges its victims face, and resources that they and survivors could use. She died in April 1995 at the age of 42.
Through Ellen’s Run and other charitable events, Ratner is responsible for creating the breast cancer center at the hospital, funding both new equipment for early detection and Ellen’s Well, a program that Ratner started in 2000 that provides free psychological support to breast cancer patients and survivors.
“I thought it was one of our best runs yet,” Ratner said. “There were some minor issues and it wasn’t wasn’t quite perfect, but at the end of the day I’m so happy with how everything went. We have such a great team of volunteers. Everything was seamless. It was almost like a love fest, the collaboration to get the job done. If you ask anyone to do something it was done with a smile.
“It was a new place, a new venue, a new route, and considering we didn’t have permission to do the race until recently, to pull everything together, it was just great,” she continued. “Anne Gomberg, all the volunteers, the intermediate school, village police, Robert Ross with the hospital, it took a whole team of people for this to get done, and they all get the reason for this race. This is a grassroots mission and it’s what’s best about our community and shows what we’re all capable of doing.”
The breast cancer survivors stole the spotlight at Sunday morning’s race, gathering together, at a safe distance, for the annual group photo, which was missed last year. And, of course, the first survivor who crossed the finish line was greeted with a special award and a rose from Ratner.
This year’s first survivor to cross the finish line was Marilyn Rutkoski, 57, of Mattituck, who said Sunday marked the first time she had taken part in Ellen’s Run. She crossed the finish line in 33:44.
“I loved it, I was so excited about doing it,” she said. She added that her breast cancer journey, “was scary, but I had a lot of friends and family behind me, so it made it easier.”
There was a bit of confusion, at first, as to who won the overall 3.1-mile race. It seemed as though the lead runner for much of the race, Sergey Avramenko, 36, was following the pace car, which crossed the finish line in the opposite direction it was supposed to. Avramenko crossed the finish line just ahead of Billy Malone, 17, who is the top runner on the Southampton varsity cross country and track teams. But because Avramenko went the wrong way, no one knew who the official winner was.
Eventually, the official race timer gave the victory to Avramenko. Even though he crossed the finish in the wrong direction, he had to go a bit further to do so, and still officially finished a second ahead of Malone at 16:22.
Avramenko, who was born in Russia, raised in Belarus and became an American citizen at 19 and has been living at various points throughout the country since then, said he finished in the wrong direction simply because he was following the pace car. A similar situation bore out back in 2018, although even with multiple mishaps from the pace car, Erik Engstrom won the race handily that year.
“I led the whole way,” he said. “It’s good to have a good competitor next to you because you push yourself even more and your time might be even better. But I was following the car and I was following my watch. I got to 3 miles right there. I knew I had 0.1 miles left, so I had to run a little more.”
Avramenko and Malone went at it just a week ago at the Race For Hope 5K in Southampton. Avramenko won that race also in 16:37. Avramenko said he is training for the Steamtown Marathon, which takes place in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on October 10. He said he’ll be running in the 5K of the Hamptons Marathon as a bit of a training run the week before.
Brayan Rivera, 15, of East Hampton placed third at Ellen’s Run in 17:45, while Kris Hedges, 41, of New York City placed fourth in 18:38. Lee Sossen, 47, of New York City rounded out the top five in 18:40.
Dominga Rivera, 17, was the first female to cross the finish line, sixth overall, in 19:02. A native of Chile who now resides in New York City, Rivera is entering her senior year at Marymount School of New York, a college preparatory, independent, Catholic day school for girls located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Rivera said she was thinking about not running on Sunday morning but was glad she did.
“I did a run yesterday, it was so bad,” she explained. “It was, like, a 5-mile easy run. I couldn’t finish the 5 miles. I was panting, I was so tired. I was like, ‘I don’t think I’m going to do the race tomorrow … ‘ and then I just decided to do it. It turned out well though.
“It was a good experience,” Rivera added. “I didn’t expect as many people of my age, but it was really good. I enjoyed it.”
The plan is for Ellen’s Run to return to the hospital grounds next year, but with that being a year away, there’s no telling if it’s going to be safe enough to do so, Tschida Gomberg said.
“We are, first of all, so grateful for Southampton Intermediate School and Southampton School District welcoming us. Everybody loves the venue,” she said. “Southampton Hospital has been our home for years and we’d love to have it there again someday, but it also has to be safe. I hope it’s safe next year. As long as it is, we should be back at the hospital. But time will tell.”