Spirit Comes Through In 22nd Annual Ellen's Run

Written by Drew Budd
Published by The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press
August 21, 2017


For Debbie Merrick, Ellen’s Run was going to be just another road race on a relatively flat and easy course, one that she could enjoy with her husband, Geoff, and their two daughters, Allie, 12, and Maddie, 10. Then she reached the grounds of Stony Brook Southampton Hospital prior to the 22nd annual 5K and truly realized the spirit of the event.

Merrick, who resides in New Providence, New Jersey, and summers in Sag Harbor, was the first breast cancer survivor to finish Sunday morning’s race in 21:06.61. She said she was a bit emotional prior to the race as she was taking the annual photo with fellow survivors of the disease.

“It was emotional because I felt all of these other women who have endured a lot of pain and a lot of challenges and I felt like part of the family,” she explained. “And then it was also interesting because I realized I’m here running because of breast cancer.”

The 47-year-old said that when she was 30 she was told not to run again due to hip dysplasia and degenerative arthritis. Merrick took a full 10 years off and then she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Getting sick pushed her to get back into shape, and through strength training, and a little help from Tamoxifen—a drug that is used to prevent breast cancer recurrence—her body is back to where she can run.

“So really, because of breast cancer, I’m here running,” she said. Merrick added she would like to return next year.

Troy Taylor, 23, of Denton, Texas, won the 3.1-mile race in a new course record of 15:40.96, shattering Nick Lemon’s previous record of 15:54 set in 2015. In fact, the following two runners would have broken Lemon’s record as well; Dylan Fine, 20, of Water Mill, finished second in 15:51.87, and Gustavo Morastitla, 17, of Southampton, placed third in 15:53.01. Joshua Green, 17, placed fourth in 16:37.57, and Kira Garry, 24, of Montauk, was the first woman to cross the finish line and rounded out the top five in 16:58.97. Tara Farrell, 38, of East Quogue, placed second among women (15th overall) in 19:22.98, Jennifer DiSunno, 22, of Amangansett finished third (27th) in 20:51.95, and Bebe Silberzweig, 22, of Scarsdale, New York, placed fourth (28th) among women in 20:51.57 28th.

Full results can be found at gsrs.com/raceresults.

Taylor, who won the inaugural Jordan’s Run Veterans’ Memorial 5K in Sag Harbor on July 30, is a recent graduate of the University of North Texas, where he ran indoor and outdoor track as well as cross country. He has been working at Gubbins Running Ahead, located in East Hampton and Southampton villages, for the summer. Barbara and Justin Gubbins, who own Gubbins Running Ahead, email coaches around the country looking for college athletes who want to run, as well as work at their stores, during the summer months. Taylor said he’s been running as much as he can during his stay on the East End but isn’t sure when he’ll appear in the next big race since he goes home in November. The Hamptons Marathon, Half-Marathon and 5K is set for September 23 in Southampton.

Proceeds of the race benefit the Ellen Hermanson Foundation, which provides breast cancer education, support and research. After 13 years in East Hampton, Ellen’s Run was moved to Southampton in 2009 to coincide with the opening of the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center.

Both the race and the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital are named after Ratner’s sister, Ellen Hermanson, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 1989. Hermanson, a journalist, sought to educate the public about the disease, the challenges its victims face and resources that they and survivors could use. She died in April 1995 at the age of 42.

Through Ellen’s Run and other charitable events, Ratner is responsible for the breast cancer center at the hospital, new equipment for early detection and Ellen’s Well, a program that Ratner started in 2000 that provides free psychological support to breast cancer patients and survivors.

Ratner, as always, was appreciative of all the help she received in getting the race to where it is now, which is consistently seeing about 800 participants as one of the biggest annual road races on the East End. She thanked Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, the Village of Southampton and the volunteers who help year in and year out.

“It’s all about the love for the survivors,” Ratner said. “There’s this good feeling of cheer for every survivor. Their pink bandanas—if they choose to wear them—are like pink badges of courage. They’re so proud and strong, and almost defiant, and you can see it in the photographs how tall, straight, and proud they are in their picture and you can see it in their interaction.”

Julie Ratner