The Tim Harmon Memorial 5K Run/Walk is to both honor a man's memory and to raise awareness of the deadly disease that took his life.
"You can live with hepatitis A and B but, eventually, C will kill you," said race director Tom Cook of Chantilly's Armfield Farms community. "You can have it for a long time and not have any symptoms. You can feel fine and not know you have it."
The problem is, there's still no cure for hepatitis C. But it's hoped that money raised by the 5K will help toward that goal while the literature in the race packet educates the public about the disease.
This year's race is the fifth annual, and it's slated for Saturday, June 26, at 8:30 a.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center. Cost is $20, and participants may register at www.racepacket.com. or on race day from 7-8:15 a.m. There are three divisions: Runners/walkers, Fairfax County employees and baby joggers. For more information, call 703-318-7261 or see www.timharmon5k.org.
When Harmon died in 1999 at age 51, he'd worked 20 years for Fairfax County. He was the county's Director of Residential Services for Alcohol and Drug Services and was a leading proponent for substance-abuse treatment.
Because of his hard work, seven new residential treatment programs were opened. He also helped expand those at A New Beginning and Fairfax Detox in Chantilly, New Generations in Vienna, plus Crossroads and Sunrise House.
PROCEEDS FROM the Tim Harmon 5K go to charities including the Hepatitis Foundation, the American Liver Foundation and several local substance-abuse centers. Funds also go toward an annual scholarship for an aspiring substance-abuse counselor.
Last year's event drew 650 participants and raised nearly $10,000. Cook hopes both numbers will rise, this year. "You always hope to do better than the previous year," he said.
Awards are given to the top three overall male and female finishers in each division, and age-group prizes will also be awarded. More than 100 medals, plaques and trophies will be given out, and prizes such as merchandise and restaurant meals — donated by local merchants — will be randomly awarded. Registered participants will also receive commemorative T-shirts.
The race will happen, rain or shine, and the certified 5K course is mostly flat and fast. It begins and ends in front of the Government Center and goes out to West Ox Road and Monument Drive. A live, classic-rock band, The Sock Monkeys, will entertain before, during and after the race. And post-race refreshments will be available.
Also slated is a silent auction for sports memorabilia, including footballs and jerseys signed by Washington Redskin linebacker LaVar Arrington and former 'Skin linebacker Jeremiah Trotter. There are also Baltimore Orioles photos, plus a football signed by football Hall of Famer Bob Griese and son Brian, a star quarterback with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Harmon hired Cook in 1984 as a county substance-abuse counselor, and the two became good friends. Harmon later learned during a routine blood test that he'd contracted hepatitis C — the only form of hepatitis with no vaccine. When he died, he was on the list for a liver transplant.
But until then, he used his own illness as a catalyst to help and teach others about this quiet killer. He urged drug-and-alcohol clients and staff members to get tested, and he encouraged people to join support groups and get help and services. Harmon also created treatment opportunities so people with substance-abuse problems could rebuild their lives.
"MANY OF the people on the race committee are Alcohol and Drug Services employees who were hired by Tim," said Cook, who'll also run in the 5K. "He was a good friend and a mentor for many of them." Those on the 10-person committee, including Cook's wife Peggy, begin working on the event, six months in advance.
"It's a lot of organization and details, and that's why we hope for a really good turnout," said Tom Cook. "If you throw a party, you want a lot of people to come. But we've made good progress in the past five years. We went from 300 participants, the first year, to more than double that number, last year."
At the time of Harmon's death, he and he wife Becky of Sterling were married 22 years. Daughter Cara, 22, attends NOVA Loudoun, and daughter Rachael, 17, just finished her junior year at Park View High. This year's race falls on Becky's birthday, and her sister is coming from Oakland, Calif., to participate.
"It's the wonderful volunteers, and Tom and Peggy, that make it happen, each year," said Becky. " I am grateful and awed by the dedication and commitment they continue to demonstrate. It pleases me to have Tim's memory and legacy kept alive in this way. I know it would please him — and he'd also be humbled by it."
An estimated 4 million Americans are currently infected with the hepatitis C virus; some 85 percent of those who contract it remain infected for life, and an estimated 15,000 die each year. The annual death toll is expected to triple by 2010. For more information, call 1-800-891-0707 or visit www.hepfi.org.
"The numbers are kind of staggering," said Cook. "That's why this is a great community event and a way to raise awareness of this illness."