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Record crowd runs Pens' 6.6K for a super cause

by Jeff Carpenter @Penguins / Pittsburgh Penguins

Less than 12 hours after the Penguins topped the Florida Panthers, 4-3, on Saturday night, Penguins fans were filling the PPG Paints Arena once again, but this time for a different purpose.

Before 7 a.m., participants in the Pittsburgh Penguins' 6.6K Run and Family Walk, presented by Highmark, were shuffling up and down the arena stairs, stretching and warming up in preparation of today's run. 

"It's awesome to be here surrounded by so many Penguins fans, it kind of gives me cold chills," Megan Alpertson of Williamstown, W.Va., said. "We went to the game last night, and that really pumped us up and gave us the adrenaline for today. Just knowing there's other Penguins fans around you supporting a great cause, it's pretty heartwarming."

The People's Gate Plaza was flooded with participants as the sun was still rising, with vibrant colored running attire filtering in with the more customary black and gold, as runners eagerly awaited Penguins Co-Owner and Chairman Mario Lemieux to fire off the starting gun on Fifth Avenue.

Over 6,000 people took part in today's event, with the 5th annual race continuing to grow, registering 1,000 more entrants than last year.

"It was a little overwhelming almost, I didn't expect so many people," Betsy Rosnic of Pittsburgh said. "It's awesome though, it's a good feeling to be here."

Penguins fans helped raise over $90,000 through the event. Proceeds from the event benefit the cancer research and patient care initiatives of the Mario Lemieux Foundation and youth initiatives of the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation.

The course circulated throughout downtown Pittsburgh, totaling 4.1 miles. As the race began, emcee Dan Potash announced that the thermometer read a fitting 66 degrees.

"It was really exciting to run through the city," Tiffany McGinnis of Pittsburgh said. "I'm a big Pittsburgh girl, I grew up here, I've been here all my life, went to school here at Pitt. It's an awesome event, to give back. Especially being around fellow Penguins supporters, it's really encouraging."

The Stanley Cup was on hand, as were a handful of Penguins alumni, including Jay Caufield and Phil Bourque.

"I thought it was great, it was a lot of fun, a lot of people, and the weather was great," Joe Repko of Moon Township, Pa., said. "To be able to share something like this with everyone outside the arena is a plus, too."

At the finish line, which funneled through Centre Avenue and past the Trib Total Media Gate, each participant was greeted by none other than No. 66 himself, extending an open hand signifying a job well done.

"It's always nice to have a reward at the end, and what better way than to have the big buy standing there encouraging you to finish," Repko said.

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