Who's that monster in the running shoes? That's one of the likely questions to be asked at the 12th annual Goblin Gallop 5K Race and 1K Fun Run on Sunday, Oct. 30.
This year's race takes place at the Fairfax Corner Shopping Center, off West Ox Road and Monument Drive. The fun run starts at 8:30 a.m., and the 5K, at 9 a.m. Register online at www.active.com.
It's always a colorful race, with many participants wearing Halloween costumes. In addition, more than $3,000 in prizes are given away, and race proceeds benefit children with cancer.
"We had 1,050 participants last time," said event organizer George Quadrino. "This time, we're expecting about 1,200 because 550 have registered so far, and that's 25 percent ahead of last year's registrants at this time."
The Goblin Gallop starts and ends in front of the Coastal Flats restaurant. Entry fees are $20 for the 5K and $15 for the 1K, postmarked by Oct. 24; late and race-day registration is $25 and $20, respectively. (For more information, see www.goblingallop.org or call the race line at 703-536-2027).
Because of its headline sponsor, for the second year in a row, the race's official name is the Valvoline Instant Oil Change Goblin Gallop. The race will happen, rain or shine, and everyone competing will receive a royal blue T-shirt featuring glow-in-the-dark ghosts and a black cat with glowing eyes. "Kids love them," said Quadrino.
The race also has a serious side, with proceeds going to the John Quadrino Foundation to Benefit Children with Cancer. It was named in memory of George Quadrino's son who died of cancer in 1985 at age 7. He battled valiantly for three years, undergoing various treatments and even a bone-marrow transplant.
Both the Goblin Gallop and the nonprofit foundation honor John's positive attitude, zest for living and compassion toward other seriously ill youngsters. These qualities of John's inspired his family and friends to assist other children with cancer, and the foundation's goal is to help them lead happy, productive lives even while receiving treatment.
Referrals come from pediatric social workers mainly at Inova Fairfax and Children's hospitals. Last year, the foundation made nearly 300 grants totaling more than $100,000. Since it's an all-volunteer group that pays its own expenses, all the money from the race goes directly to the families of these children.
Because medical bills can be overwhelming, parents of seriously ill children often need help with rent, utility bills or car-repair costs. Often, one parent must quit a job to stay home and take care of the child. A family with no prior financial problems suddenly finds itself in dire straits. That's where the John Quadrino Foundation comes in.
For example, one family had to travel to another city for its preschool daughter's bone-marrow transplant and needed help making ends meet while the family was uprooted. A teen-age boy undergoing chemotherapy needed money for a wig, and a single mom needed help paying her rent when she took a leave of absence from her job to be with her son while he underwent intense treatment for Hodgkin's Disease.
That's why the Goblin Gallop — which attracts participants from all over Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Maryland — is so important. "We raised about $26,000 last year, but we hope to raise $40,000 this year," Said George Quadrino.
NO DOGS, strollers, baby joggers or headphones are allowed in the 5K, but walkers are welcome in both the 5K and 1K. The course is USATF-certified and is part of the Dodge Grand Prix series. For the first time, it's a Championship Chip race.
"Everybody is given a computer chip that they tie onto their shoelaces, and it registers their starting and finishing times," said Quadrino. "Then it's all computed automatically." Results will be posted that afternoon on www.runwashington.com.
"Capital Running Co. will handle the scoring and results," added race director Dixon Hemphill. "And the awards ceremony will be on the stage in front of Coastal Flats."
Prizes valued at $150, $100 and $50 will be presented to the top three, overall, male and female finishers. Prizes will also be given to the top three male and female finishers in various age categories.
Packet pick-up is Friday, Oct. 28, from 12-7 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 29, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., at REI at Fairfax Corner (11950 Grand Commons Ave.) Race-day packet pick-up is 7-8:30 a.m. at the registration table.
"We distribute more than $3,000 in door prizes — most donated by local merchants, especially in the Fair Lakes/Fairfax Center area," said Quadrino. "They include Redskins tickets, meals at local restaurants and gift certificates at running stores. Our largest prize-contributor was Glory Days Grill, which was very generous; $1,000 of the door prizes came from them."
Besides Valvoline and Glory Days Grill, other main sponsors are The Shaffer Charitable Foundation, e-Engineering, Washington Intelligence Bureau, Don Beyer Volvo, REI, Panera Bread and Silberne Sales, Inc.
Quadrino's 10-person committee has been hard at work since January, taking care of all the necessary details to make the race a reality. "Getting all the pieces to fit and everything organized takes a lot of time," he said. "But we have very good people helping — beginning with our race director, Dixon Hemphill — and it's enjoyable to work with them."
Hemphill owned two running stores — Fairfax Running Center in Fairfax and Alexandria — and is a runner, himself, so he's been involved in this event since it began, a dozen years ago. "It's a very worthy cause," he said. "And I like seeing the satisfaction on everybody's faces as they finish the race; they're smiling, and people are having a good time."
WHILE DESCRIBING the route as a "rather challenging course," Hemphill said that it's going to be "an even faster course [than the previous one at Fair Lakes] because it's relatively flat and has few hills and all right turns." From the shopping center, participants will turn right on Random Hills Road, right on Ridge Top Road, right on Monument Drive and right on Government Center Parkway.
Because the Goblin Gallop is always run at Halloween time, many of the runners and walkers and those cheering for them come in costume. "Elvis always makes an appearance," said Quadrino. "The Tin Man is a regular, and we have lots of witches and goblins. Last year, twin girls finished first and third, and they dressed as Indians." A lawyer, the optimistic Quadrino always wears a judge's robe as his costume.
Since Valvoline is the major sponsor, its racecar simulator will make the scene. "You can sit behind the wheel and pretend to drive, with a screen showing the road in front of you," said Quadrino. In addition, the band Quasimoto will play classic rock, and refreshments including fruit, bagels from Panera, juice, water and coffee will be available.
"The Goblin Gallop is both a competitive event, with serious runners, and also a fun event for families, with both children and adults in costume," said Quadrino. Best of all, he said, is "just seeing it all come together and knowing that the money raised will benefit families who really need it."
Anyone not wishing to participate, but wanting to make a donation may send a check payable to The John Quadrino Foundation to P.O. Box 4614, Falls Church, VA 22044. Contributions are tax-deductible and may also be made via the Combined Federal Campaign/United Way by designating them for CFC/UW No. 8931.