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In the Race Against Autism

Annual “Autism Speaks” 5k Race/Fun Walk returns July 4.

Participants in last year’s 5K Race/Fun Walk.

Participants in last year’s 5K Race/Fun Walk.

— Potomac will be teeming with runners and walkers celebrating the 4th for a special cause — Autism Speaks. Almost two thousand runners and walkers will gather at the Potomac Library parking lot to raise awareness and funds for global biomedical research on causes, prevention, treatment and cures for autism.

An autism epidemic is at crisis level in the U.S. according to the Center for Disease Control reporting that 1 in 88 children (1 in 54 boys) are on the autism spectrum.

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Sign

One way to contribute to the cause is to join this race/walk on July 4.

Last year, the race garnered over $250,000 for Autism Speaks and this year the organizers are hoping to top that number.

Susan Pereles, event planner for Autism Speaks National Capital Area and founder of the race 12 years ago, launched the race because her nephew had been diagnosed with autism at age 2. She recently returned from his Bar Mitzvah. “I was moved to tears,” she said. “Here is my nephew, a young man with autism who could not speak at age 3 and 4, who had to use sign language and flash cards to communicate — and he read the Torah in Hebrew to us. It was such a special, beautiful ceremony for everyone.”

On the subject of autism, Pereles is passionate: “We are in deep trouble. There’s not a magic pill to cure this disease. We still do not know why the numbers are increasing — and what causes autism. Better pre-natal identification by the age of 18 months must occur. We are getting closer — more pharmaceutical companies are pulling work groups together and putting more money into research — but we must do even more. As autistic children get older, the issue of providing housing alternatives, employment, and socialization opportunities for them becomes a huge problem for communities and governments.”

This year’s race t-shirt was designed by Tyler Bell, a teen affected by autism. The t-shirt will be bright red with Tyler’s contemporary runner superimposed on the American Flag. All racers who register by July 2 will receive the t-shirt.

The race will begin at 7:45 a.m. with a pre-race warm-up. The gun goes off for the 5K road race at 8 a.m. and for the 1 mile walk at 8:05 a.m. The 5K course passes through shaded residential streets and ends with a long down-hill finish. Because of the large number of runners for the 5K, a wave start will be utilized to allow runners to run “at their pace right from the start.” The first wave will consist of all runners who expect to run at a 6:30 min/mile pace or better. The second wave is for those runners who run a 6:30 – 8 min/mile. The thirrd wave is for 8 – 10 min/mile races and the fourth wave is for all runners who will run a 10+ mile/min. Monetary awards will go to the top three overall male and female finishers. Cash awards will also be given for the top male and female Masters (40 and over) winners. Prizes will also be given to the top fundraiser teams. After the race, participants can enjoy food, beverages and music.

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The finish line at last year’s race.

“Registration is ahead of last year at this time — and now the teams are forming and starting their fundraising. We have teams from swim clubs, schools, neighborhoods, churches, and other organizations — these teams are a vital part of our race and our fundraising. They truly take on the spirit of the day,” said Pereles. She also explained that the “Run Anywhere” campaign encourages individuals and teams who are out of the area to sign up, receive the t-shirt and run wherever they are. With their Facebook postings, more and more people who reside in communities where no races are held are taking advantage of this opportunity.

On July 3, racers will have an opportunity to prepare for the race by “packing carbs” at Potomac Pizza. The Potomac restaurant will hold a “Dine-Out for Autism Speaks” event. They will donate 20 percent of their proceeds of both take-out or dine-in to the race.

To register for the Autism Speaks 5K Race and One Mile Walk or to serve as a volunteer, visit the website www.autism speaks5K@autismspeaks.org. Adults are $35, Children, $15.Late registration and packet pick-up will be held at the Potomac Library on July 4 from 6:30-7:30 a.m.

Updated to reflect a change in late registration and packet.