For Frances Small, the early Saturday morning wake-up, the long drive and the traffic snarls were minor irritations on the way to her destination: the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Instead, she was focused on the battle her sister is waging against breast cancer.
The Palmdale resident was one of 60,000 people who cheerfully put up with logistical hassles--including hourlong waits to enter parking lots and lines for everything from T-shirts to portable toilets--for a chance to run or walk in support of the fight against breast and ovarian cancer.
The participants in the ninth annual Revlon Run/Walk--more than twice the number of runners as at this year's Los Angeles Marathon--raised almost $3.5 million for research, awareness and prevention programs.
By 8 a.m., Small, a client service representative for a clinical trials company, was standing outside the Coliseum, wearing a five-digit race number on her chest and a white-and-red card on her back that told others she was walking in support of her sister.
"She's doing well," Small said. "But I am here supporting the cause, for all the women."
Small's friend, Joanne Gardner-Smith, said she has made the event, which is put on by the Entertainment Industry Foundation, a part of her Mother's Day weekend for the last six years. This year, she raised $230 "without any effort."
"I believe in being proactive rather than reactive," Gardner-Smith said. "It's humbling to see how breast cancer has touched so many people ....One year, we just stood out here and cried. Some people wore two and three cards."
The cards--purple for cancer survivors, red for their relatives and yellow for those marching in memory of someone--allowed participants to give names to the reasons why they were walking. Some listed three or four generations in a family, seeming to reflect a hereditary predisposition to the diseases.
Participant Kristy Adams, 45, walked in memory of her mother, who died of ovarian cancer 13 years ago. Last year, Adams' first at the event, she was touched by a man "walking in memory of five family members. And he was all alone." This year, she brought her son, two daughters and office mates to walk beside her.
Veterans of the event have refined participation in the Run/Walk almost to a science. They keep in touch with friends via cell phone, assign prearranged meeting spots on the grounds of the Coliseum, and forgo handouts from sponsors, thus avoiding trips back to the car to stash race paraphernalia.
"After you've done it a lot of years, you realize you don't need the free stuff," said Madeline Mozee of San Bernardino. "Waiting in line doesn't matter."
Mozee had avoided an early wake-up call by booking a downtown hotel room for herself and friend Evi Roberson, an 11-year breast cancer survivor.
Event organizer Lisa Paulsen, president of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, said clinical trials of the breast cancer-fighting drug Herceptin were fast-tracked because of money raised at the run/walks.
As Paulsen darted around the hospitality tent near the finish line, greeting celebrities and supporters, she marveled aloud at the longevity of the event. After nine years, she said, the Revlon Run/Walk has become an annual reunion of sorts for the participants, as well as the 2,500 volunteers who keep the event running.
"We keep thinking that participation in the event will wane," she said. "But it never does."