by brett graff | December 2, 2014 | People
Tennis star and Miami local Serena Williams serves up the ultimate run to help kids around the world have better lives.
Tennis star Serena Williams hosts her first road race, the Serena Williams Ultimate Run South Beach 5K & Quarter Marathon, to benefit her foundation.
Most of us in Miami will never get a chance to play tennis with Serena Williams. But this month, we’ll all have the opportunity to run with her. Williams—who just made history with her 18th Grand Slam title after winning the 2014 US Open—will host the Serena Williams Ultimate Run South Beach, a quarter-marathon, 6.55-mile race in which the tennis star will participate along with 3,000 locals and celebrity athletes, including elite runners from the Nike Oregon Project. Proceeds will benefit the Serena Williams Foundation, which is aimed at helping youth all over the world.
The foundation’s efforts are two-fold: First, it provides financial support to kids whose families are affected by violent crimes (Williams’s own half-sister was killed by a gunshot in 2003). The tennis player now raises money for families working to rebuild from tragedy, helping them secure counseling, daycare, housing, food, and education. “It is the hope of the Serena Williams Foundation to continue to [bring about] change in the lives of children who have been negatively affected by violence in the US,” says Williams.
The foundation also has helped build schools in Kenya and strives to provide educational opportunities to kids both around the globe and in the United States. Through granting scholarships, it funds the scholastic endeavors of deserving high school students for college, job training, and entrepreneurship.
“Over the past five years, we have helped fund the construction of two schools with a goal to assist underprivileged kids in receiving the highest quality of education available to them,” says the tennis star.
Ultimate Run CEO Marc Wachter crossing the finish line at last year’s event with his wife and daughter.
The race’s philanthropic intent drew the involvement of Miami Beach financial advisor Michael Rose, who sits on a variety of high-profile boards and is often credited with orchestrating the kind of partnerships and programs that buoy the South Florida community. Rose—whose charity work has included the Mourning Family Foundation and Make-A-Wish Foundation—is a frequent consultant to Williams on a variety of projects. After discussing with her the goal of organizing a race that would combine the tennis player’s athletic and altruistic interests, he, along with Marc Wachter, the CEO/president of Live Ultimate, got behind her in organizing a union with the race formerly known as the Live Ultimate Run.
“Everyone is doing so much heavy lifting to make this race a success,” says Rose. “I’m a big believer in giving back. I want to give a lot of my time and have a big impact.”
“December is beautiful in Miami, and I thought that it would be a great time to bring everyone out for a great running experience,” says Williams. “I have lived in Florida for the majority of my life. Miami is home to me, so of course I’m excited to host the event here.”
Thousands of runners streaming down Ocean Drive for the 2013 Ultimate Run South Beach.
The city’s classic architecture will provide the scenic backdrop—from the Art Deco buildings, chic lounges, and patio cafés to the rippling waves of the Atlantic Ocean and the towering palm trees lining it all. The race itself winds along Ocean Drive, which will be closed to cars for the occasion.
The weekend festivities, however, will touch upon much of Miami Beach, kicking off on Friday with a swanky VIP reception and continuing on Saturday at Nikki Beach, where a fitness expo—open to everyone—will be packed with demonstrations from the top makers of apparel, sporting goods, athletic gear, and sports nutrition products. It concludes on Sunday night with a karaoke event at the Clevelander. “Maybe it’s the nice weather, but everyone is so friendly,” says Williams. “Living in such a beautiful place encourages people to get outside and be active.”
Members of Black Girls Run! celebrating at last year’s post-race party.
And it would seem that her long list of high-profile sponsors could not agree more. Even from the outset, national brands have lined up to support the event. Nike will be providing runners with hightech fit shirts, while Gatorade, Delta, Beats by Dre, and Mission Athletecare signed on for the chance to get their names in front of Miami Beach runners—both practiced and first-timers.
“You don’t have to be a professional runner to participate,” says Williams. “If you are a veteran runner trying to set a personal record, that is great! However, we are encouraging first-time runners to race as well. My goal is to bring out a lot of participants to raise money for the Serena Williams Foundation.” The Serena Williams Ultimate Run South Beach takes place December 14 at 8 am, 1 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach, 305-538-8899
photography by roberto ojeda