COVID-19 Moves Washington Miles for Meso Run/Walk Online

Awareness & Research

Considering how the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down the world of sports, Diana Stewart just assumed there would be no Miles for Meso 5K Fun Run/Walk this year in her hometown of Federal Way, Washington.

She was wrong — thankfully.

Stewart helped create the popular annual event in 2012 as part of a promise to her late husband, who died of mesothelioma. She was thrilled to learn that the manager of the Federal Way Community Center had come to its rescue.

The race is on.

But, instead of being the official in-person kickoff to Independence Day festivities in Federal Way, it will be held virtually.

Everyone will pick their own 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) to travel, record their own times and run any time from June 29 to July 5.

Money Raised Goes to Mesothelioma Research

In the name of social distancing, participants will log their own information into the official Miles for Meso website, including how long it took to cross the finish line.

“I’m sure we’ll see a lot of 5-minute miles this year,” joked Leif Ellsworth, the community center manager who is spearheading the event. “With all the events in the area being canceled, we thought this was still a great way to engage the community and continue to support a great cause.”

That cause is raising awareness and money in support of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, a non-profit charity organization based in Washington, D.C. It helps fund research, assists patients with treatment options and is dedicated to ending mesothelioma cancer.

Federal Way’s Miles for Meso event has raised more than $125,000 for the foundation over the last eight years, along with awareness of this rare and aggressive cancer caused primarily by asbestos exposure.

Miles for Meso was created originally by the wives of three men from Federal Way — Dick Dyhrman, Bud Hatley and Bob Stewart — who died of mesothelioma cancer. It has expanded to honor all victims across the state.

Federal Way, a city of close to 100,000 residents, borders Puget Sound and is located between Tacoma and Seattle. The community has a higher-than-normal rate of asbestos diseases, including mesothelioma, due to asbestos exposure in shipyards located nearby.

The mayor of Federal Way, who typically attends the Miles for Meso event each year, was so impressed originally with the dedication of the three women that he issued a proclamation that officially recognizes National Mesothelioma Awareness Day every Sept. 26.

“It’s amazing to me that we’re still going to have it this year. I’m thrilled to keep it going,” Stewart said. “It will be the ninth consecutive year. I remember making a promise to my husband that we would do everything we could to keep fighting for the cause. I think it’s wonderful what this has become.”

Bob Stewart was a teacher and coach at Federal Way High School. Hatley was athletic director there. Both are in the Federal Way School District Hall of Fame. All three men were former athletes and well known in the community when they died.

Miles for Meso Goes National on a Virtual Stage

Although Ellsworth is expecting fewer than the 250 to 300 participants the race usually attracts, the virtual turn has made it easier for out-of-towners to enter. Entries already have come from North Carolina, Michigan, North Dakota and Vancouver, Canada.

Stewart, 77, said she would be doing her 5 kilometers on July 4, along the traditional BPA Trail in Federal Way where the event is typically held.

“Optimally, our goal is to work toward finding a cure, or eliminate it entirely,” Stewart said. “I love the enthusiasm we’ve had every year, to start the Fourth of July here. And I am so happy now that we can keep it going.”