By Michaela Gibson Morris
TUPELO – At 8 a.m. Saturday, a new hand will fire the starter gun for the Komen North Mississippi Race for the Cure.
After shepherding the 5k run/walk as race director for its first 15 years, Edwin Crenshaw has passed the pink baton to David Whiteside for No. 16.
“I will miss it,” said Crenshaw, who bowed out so he wouldn’t miss any more of his grandchildren’s birthdays. “I can’t believe it’s been 15 years.”
Whiteside, 41-year runner and a founding member of the Tupelo Running Club, has helped organize hundreds of running events through the years.
“He has so many years of experience,” said Rachel Wood, 2013 Race for the Cure chairwoman, who asked Whiteside to consider serving as Race director last year after Crenshaw announced his retirement. “He was the first person who came to my mind.”
Whiteside has a long history with the Race for the Cure, too.
“I’ve only been officially involved once, but I’ve been there every year,” Whiteside said. “It’s hard to be a runner and not be involved with the Race for the Cure.”
His wife, Kathy, has raised more than $1,000 for Race for the Cure through a project in Pontotoc over the years. They’ve been inspired by friends who have fought breast cancer.
“It’s not just a race,” Whiteside said. “It’s not just a regular event.”
Crenshaw was on the original committee that laid the groundwork to bring the Race to the Cure to Tupelo in 1998. It’s grown from 1,170 participants to 3,800, raising more than $2.3 million for mammograms for the medically underserved, community programs and national research efforts.
“It’s truly been a blessing,” he said.
In addition to starting the race, it’s the race director’s job to make sure all the race numbers are correct and that they have the correct information collected for the runners. The director is backed up by a crew of eight heavy-duty helpers.
That team has made Whiteside’s job much easier.
“I’m the only new kid on the block,” Whiteside said. “The folks on the committee have done all the hard work.”