The annual Fun Run fundraiser for the Queen Anne Helpline is coming up in a couple of weeks, but there's trouble looming in the future if more people than last year don't participate, according to helpline spokeswoman Suzanne McCallum.
"The city permit folks have told us if we don't have 500 people this year, they won't issue a [race] permit next year," she said. "They've raised the bar."
That might be a problem. "We've historically had between 400 and 500 runners, and last year there was a dip," McCallum went on to say.
Indeed, race organizers were shooting for the same numbers last year, said Virginia Swanson, chair of the city's Special Events Committee, which issues the permits for the run. "They actually had 295."
The Helpline pays a flat fee to the city for the race, along with a separate fee for each participant, and the city has been rumbling about the cost of police staffing for the event for a couple of years, McCallum said.
And this year isn't the first time the city has given race organizers a notice that they would need more people, according to Swanson. "We gave it to them last year," she said of the notice.
The race was a lot more popular in the beginning. "The race used to have 1,000 people when it was the Crown of Queen Anne race," Swanson said. "It used to be a big event, but it has dwindled over the years."
The city isn't trying to discourage anyone from having fundraising races, but more people and more traffic in Seattle, along with fewer race participants, have put a strain on the system for police, she said.
"Well, I think it's lame to do that to a neighborhood event," said former Queen Anne resident Glenn Leimbacher, who ran in the first Helpline race some 22 years ago. "I'd hate to see it go away after so long."
"That's not good," agreed Jim McGillivray. He ran the first race with Leimbacher, his friend and fellow neighborhood resident at the time. The two placed first and second, respectively. "I set it up for him to beat me," McGillivray smiled.
Leimbacher remembers it differently. He edged ahead of McGillivray near the end of the race because he was a sprinter, while McGillivray was a long-distance runner, Leimbacher said.
The two have since moved out of the Queen Anne neighborhood, but they still maintain ties. McGillivray works at Upper Queen Anne's Metropolitan Market, another race sponsor. That carries on a tradition that started when the late Dick Rhodes helped form the Helpline when he owned the grocery store and it was called the Queen Anne Thriftway. And Leimbacher has made the T-shirts for the Queen Anne run for close to a decade, he said.
The Fun Run brought in around $9,000 last year for the helpline, said McCallum, who conceded that doesn't sound like a lot. But the Helpline is a small agency, and that kind of money would be sorely missed, she said.
"We're wringing out hands trying to figure out what to do here."
A change of venue could do the trick, according to Swanson. The city is trying to convince organizers of small events like the Fun Run to stage the races in parks, she said. "They don't need police if they run in parks."
The Queen Anne Helpline can be reached at 282-1540.
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