NEW CANAAN, Conn. -- When New Canaan’s Catherine Calandra ran in the Damon Runyon 5k at Yankee Stadium for cancer research for the first time last year, it felt as if she was returning home.
Calandra will return to the race Sunday, Aug. 3, and it will again stir childhood memories.
As a young girl, Calandra watched day games from her father’s office in a building that overlooked center field at the old Yankee Stadium.
“Yankee Stadium was a second home to me,’’ she said. “I thought how cool it would be to run around the warning track. I used to watch day games from a window in my father’s office at the Bronx courthouse, and it was always a special place. When I had the opportunity to participate, I wanted to take advantage of it. The cause for cancer research made me even more motivated to do it.”
Calandra’s father was a big part of her first Runyon race last year. When she arrived for the race, she found the bib had slots for two names that she could honor during the run. She selected Elly Luciano and Barbara Malone, two sisters and Calandra’s cousins who died from cancer. The three women's family hail from Villa Avenue near the Grand Concourse, just north of Yankee Stadium.
“I had a dream about them the night before,’’ Calandra said. “When I was running the race, I saw them on the sidelines cheering me on. I told my dad about the dream, and he said; 'When I donated to your website it was their name that I put the donation in.' It sort of gave me chills.”
The event is expected to draw thousands of participants from across the country and globe, including baseball fans, runners, cancer survivors, and supporters. The first heat of elite runners starts at 9:30 a.m., followed by heats of recreational runners and walkers throughout the day. The last heat begins in the early afternoon.
The course winds through the ballpark’s concourses and ramps, and up stairs between levels. All participants will have the opportunity to circle the field on the warning track and see themselves on the center field video board. After the run/walk, scientists funded by Damon Runyon will be on hand to meet and congratulate participants.
Past participants have ranged in age from 5 to 78 years old, hailing from more than 35 states. Last year’s event raised more than $760,000. The Runyon 5K has raised nearly $3 million for cancer research since its inception in 2009.
Calandra races infrequently, but loves the cause of the Runyon race and the added perk of running at the home field of her favorite baseball team.
“I thought it was awesome,’’ she said. “I can’t say enough about it; it was such a unique experience. When I was running it, I thought this is the coolest thing ever.”