The Old First Night Run/Walk is not new to Laura Dawson and her two daughters, Karen Dawson and Jennifer Bradham, who have ran in almost every single one.
Three weeks after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, Laura Dawson arrived at the Institution. While receiving radiation treatments in Erie, Pennsylvania, she continued to run every morning and play tennis daily.
“Chautauqua is in my blood,” Laura Dawson said. “I’m just happy to be running after fighting breast cancer.”
Laura Dawson has ran in almost every Old First Night Run/Walk since it started in 1976, only missing one due to an injury.
She was working as an aerobic instructor when she heard about the first Old First Night Run/Walk, and knew immediately that she would run in the events forever. Laura Dawson will be running this year’s race, which begins at 8 a.m. on Aug. 4 at Sports Club.
“I love the generations that are involved in the race,” Laura Dawson said. “To run with other Chautauquans is kind of emotional for me.”
Running is a routine for the family, and they do not see that stopping anytime soon. With Laura Dawson in Pittsburgh and her daughters living in Washington, D.C., running is what keeps them connected.
“She has always run,” Karen Dawson said of her mother. “I remember her waking up early to run the big loop before dropping us off at Club.”
Bradham remembers first running with her mother and trying to keep up at the age of 5, but only being able to get halfway around the grounds.
Laura’s daughters have been running in Old First Night Run/Walk since they were 7 and 10 years old. Now, at 25 and 28, they are missing this year’s race for the first time in awhile.
“We will definitely be wearing our shirts and running the distance at home,” Karen Dawson said. “We will be cheering everyone on from afar.”
When Jennifer Bradham ran her first marathon, Laura Dawson ran the last two miles with her to finish the race.
“I love running with my girls,” Laura Dawson said.
Karen Dawson and Jennifer Bradham have already started training to run in the Oct. 28 Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., for the National Pancreas Foundation. This marathon will be the first the sisters have ran together.
“We are really excited for the marathon, and this is our first time running for a cause,” Bradham said. “When you’re on mile 20 and you have to keep going, it’s nice to think, ‘I’m doing this for a good cause.’ ”