At 67, Bess James retired and found herself wondering what she was going to do with her free time. She started walking and, with the encouragement of her children, began jogging.
"I never even thought about running. It wasn't anything I planned on," said the 76-year-old San Jacinto resident. "I thought, 'At 69 you're going to start jogging? You must be crazy! You can't start jogging now.' But it was a challenge. I love challenges."
Eight-year-old Deshna Plumer of Irvine has been involved with running most of her life, having been taken as a baby to watch her sisters, Patti Sue and Polly, streak across many a finish line. Deshna decided Sunday that it would be fun to give running a try herself and entered her first race--the second annual Success Run All Women 8K at the Irvine Marriott--in which Patti Sue, 23, placed first overall.
"I've been running since I was Deshna's age," said Patti Sue, who, after crossing the finish line, went back onto the race course to run back in with her sister. "I want to do it for life. I think I have a talent for it, and a talent is something you can't run away from."
This desire to run is why James and both Plumers as well as 780 other women entered Sunday's race, organized by Women in Business of Orange County to raise money to fund job training and other practical-skills classes for "women in transition" who will be staying at the soon-to-be-built YWCA Hotel for Women in Santa Ana.
'Women Running for Women'
"Part of what makes this event unique is that it's women running for women," run director Carolyn McGrew said. "It gives women an opportunity to see what we can do when we all work together."
According to race spokesman Dee Gaynor, the basic criteria for determining the beneficiary of this year's race proceeds was that it be a program that "benefits women and preferably includes some type of rehabilitation or training program." Last year the $1,500 raised went to Human Options, a shelter for abused women in South Laguna, to purchase video equipment for teaching women job interview skills.
This year, according to Gaynor, the approximately $4,500 raised will serve a similar purpose. "With the (large number of) homeless women in Santa Ana, most of our money is to go to rehabilitation and training so that they can be employed. A lot of these women don't have job skills. Through the YWCA program, they will be trained and brought back into the working world so that they can support themselves and find a place to live."
Executive vice president of the Program for Women Foundation, Harriet Harris, who served as hostess of the run and handed out prizes said the foundation was organized to finance projects to benefit women. The group's first project, Harris said, is to raise $1 million to build the 40-bed YWCA Hotel for Women to be constructed in February on the top of the gymnasium of the YWCA facility in Santa Ana. Harris said that more than $400,000 of the $1-million campaign goal for the facility and programs has already been raised by the foundation.
"The response to the project has been extremely positive," Harris said. "The lack of a facility for homeless women is one of the major problems facing women in Orange County. This race is a good example of women working together to help alleviate that situation. We're thrilled at the response that the run has generated. I'd like to think that the larger turnout this year was largely due to the attention focused on our need and project."
Although many of the runners at the 8K run said they came because they enjoyed running, many of them, like 42-year-old Harolene Walters of El Toro, said the fund-raising aspect of the race was an added incentive to appear.
"I thought the race was for a very good cause," Walters said. "My husband really didn't want me running because I had already committed myself to another race the following weekend, and he wanted me to take it easy. But I decided I wanted to run in the race anyhow. The reason for the race means a lot more to me than just winning."
The focus on women was a major reason that the second-place winner in last year's race, Liz Baker of San Diego, came back to participate in the event again this year. "I just had a wonderful time last year," said Baker, who placed sixth in this year's run. "The event was really well organized, and all the ladies involved were very nice and took good care of me. I was more than happy to come back this year."
A distance runner for the last six years, Baker, who "likes to set high goals" for herself, has a bachelor's degree in geology and works part time at Scripps Institution of Oceanography reading and interpreting satellite photographs.
Likes Races for Women