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Running for Relief

James Carville inspires an Alexandria effort to raise money for the Gulf Coast.

When Chris Farley heard James Carville on the radio, he knew that he had to do something. Carville was talking about the devastation in his home state of Louisiana.

He mourned the human tragedy and loss of life in the Gulf Coast. He worried about the future of Louisiana. He demanded that something must be done. On the other end of the radio, Farley nodded in agreement.

"Everybody understands that something has got to be done about this," said Farley, owner of Pacers Running Store. "I knew I had to do something."

So he picked up the phone and called Carville, his most famous customer. Carville lives in Old Town with his wife and daughters, and he is a frequent customer of the store, preferring a Mizuno size 12.

"We are in the midst of one of the biggest stories of our time," Carville said. "Every day brings countless more tragic and heartbreaking stories out of the ravaged Gulf Coast."

WITH THE HELP of Pacers and the city of Alexandria, Carville will put his love of running to work for the Gulf Coast. On Sept. 17 at 9 a.m., Pacers and the city will host the "Gulf Coast Relief 5K" to raise money for the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Participants include Carville, his wife Mary Matalin, ESPN broadcaster Tony Kornheiser and actress Patricia Clarkson. Corporate sponsors include Mizuno USA, Roll Call newspaper and Great Harvest Bread Company.

"We want people of every political party to come because we want this to be a unifying thing," Carville said. "The Gulf Coast Relief Run will provide an opportunity for area friends and neighbors to come together to support their fellow Americans suffering across the Gulf Coast."

The race will start at Orinoco Park and run south on Union Street, then loop around the Yates Gardens neighborhood before coming back up Union Street toward Orinoco Park. A race like this would normally take about six months to plan, but the Gulf Coast Relief Run will be streamlined — sprinting toward the finish line to help people whose lives have been devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

"There's a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that has to go on," said Brian Collins, manager of Pacers. "There's the permits and the sponsors and the police — that's a lot to get done in three weeks."

CITY LEADERS WERE quick to offer support, and Mayor Bill Euille was an early supporter of the idea. But some were concerned about closing city streets at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

"Who is going to complain if traffic is tied up when you've got a city underwater?" asked Carville. "The mayor personally called me up and said he was behind this 100 percent."

The race is open to runners and walkers — even people with baby strollers.

"You don't even need to be able to run to take part in this," said Carville, who jogs on the Mount Vernon Trail every day.

"All you need to be able to do is write a check."

Carville's advice for runners: "Start slow, then taper off."