By Christopher Roberson
MELROSE – Nearly 200 runners braved torrential downpours to participate in the Fourth Annual Mary O’Donnell 5K to continue raising money in the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Melrose resident Matthew O’Donnell said he and his family started the race after his mother, Mary O’Donnell, was taken by the disease in November 2014 at the age of 51. She was married to William O’Donnell for 24 years and was the mother of five children.
“It’s a great tribute to my mom,” O’Donnell said of the race, adding that the event generates “$30,000 to $40,000” each year, and “The continued support of the people in the community has been awesome.”
O’Donnell also lauded the research efforts of ALS ONE, which has set a goal of curing the disease by 2020. “They’ve raised millions and millions,” he said.
Radicava, a drug proven to slow the debilitating effects of ALS, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in May 2017. This was the first ALS treatment option to receive FDA approval since Riluzole got the green light in 1995. The development of Radicava was funded with $100 million in donations that the ALS Association received during the first weeks of the Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014.
Regarding the race itself, Sean Kay, 15, of Melrose, was this year’s winner with a time of 17 minutes, five seconds. He completed the course 39 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Dylan Pomer, 17, of Fairfield, Conn.
“The rain made it a lot harder, there were a ton of puddles around mile two,” said Kay. However, he said it still “felt good” to take home the victory.
Alexandra Kay, 19, of Melrose, had the best women’s time of 21 minutes, 11 seconds and finished in 16th place overall.
Stephen Warren, 52, of Quincy, said he was thrown off by the inclement weather. “This was the wettest race I’ve run in since Falmouth 20 years ago,” he said. Although this was Warren’s first time running in Melrose, he said, he has been competing in the ALS Squirrel Run for several years.
Andrew Carey, 25, of Belmont, felt differently about the weather, saying it created a “nice, peaceful atmosphere.” “I came out just looking to do a fun run,” he said. Carey finished in fifth place with a time of 19 minutes, nine seconds.
Maggie Hojlo, 23, of Wayland, said the wet weather did not bother her either. “Everyone who showed up wasn’t really fazed by the rain,” she said, adding that it actually boosted morale. Hojlo said she has been in the race every year since it began four years ago.