A special day at the PHenomenal Hope 5K

April 28,2015

There are many reasons we choose to ride our bikes, lace up our running shoes, pull on our swim goggles and pursue our sport. It’s fun. We set goals. We’re trying to get a new personal record. It keeps us healthy. It brings balance to our lives. It keeps our mind healthy. And on Team PHenomenal Hope, one of the reasons we swim, bike or run is because we feel connected to a larger group of people who live with a disease called pulmonary hypertension (PH) – the PH community. And that word – community – is what this journey (on Team PH and well, in life) is all about.

The PHenomenal Hope 5K is a special event created in 2014 by an amazing group of people, and reminds me of the amazing spirit of this community. Organized by a special group of women: Race Director Julia Feitner, Holly Thompson, Nicole Stafford, Deanna Modzelewski, and Jan Janus, 2015 proved to be an even greater success. By the way, you can read more about these amazing women over at the Annual PHenomenal Hope 5K website.

On Saturday, April 4th, Pittsburgh’s PH community came together with over 575 people registered (and another 100 people volunteering or hanging out!) for the 2nd annual event. Much of the time I was awestruck as I just took it all in. There was excitement in the air as we saw the sunshine coming through the clouds and felt the energy of the community.

Julia Feitner, race organizer, is – in a word – a powerhouse. She lives with pulmonary hypertension, and rather than succumb to this illness, she has channeled her energy and passion to catapult PH into the spotlight and bring together members of the community on a very special day each year. You see, the PH 5K is not just about getting a number and a T-shirt and running 3.1 miles and that’s it. It is actually more like a festival, a party that captures your spirit, and if you let it, inspires you. It is about resilience. It’s about togetherness. It’s our tribe.

When I showed up in the morning, people were moving through registration, getting their numbers and T-shirts, and getting ready to walk or run. And it was a reunion of PHriends and friends coming together on a cool but sunny Saturday. The team – old and new, racers and crew members – met up and connected with each other with old friends. And that vibe, that positive energy you get when people connect – honestly that’s the part I most love about Team PHenomenal Hope and the PH community.

At the PH 5K I found again teams of people dressed in T-shirts and tutus, rallying behind someone they love, who lives with PH. Before the race Tim Bachman and I took photos and GoPro video of the groups all around, capturing moments on this special day. The race itself was fun to watch, as I took photos and cheered for people walking and running their day, each person with their own stride, taking a step – many steps – out against PH.

After the race, results were posted and awards and prizes were given. Participating in an event like this is truly an accomplishment, when you really think about it. There were smiles on peoples’ faces as they crossed the finish line with friends or re-gathered after the race. And our very own Mike Finikiotis and Mike Bauer finished in the top 5 of their age groups!

But the highest honors went to the thirteen PH patients who came to the event, including the family of a dear PHriend who lost her battle to PH last year. All of these people live with PH, working to overcome hurdles that those of us with healthy lungs don’t encounter, and in so doing they inspire us. They inspire us to swim, bike or run, and to never give up.

The PH 5K is a special day in which a group of people refuses to let PH win, when a community comes together and we get to literally race with those who live with PH for awareness and ultimately for a cure. And it was a huge success: they raised over $25,000 for the Pulmonary Hypertension Association to support research! The PH 5K truly lives up to its name, and definitely gives us PHenomenal Hope.

We thank the organizers for building a truly successful event that rallies all of us and reminds us we are not alone. Congratulations to the organizers and participants in the PH 5K. Looking forward to next year!

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