EASTON, Conn. – Mark Pastor is a one-time clown, part-time disc jockey and full-time police officer in Easton. He combines experience from all three trades as the director of the Race For DARE .
The 14th-annual 5-kilometer race steps off from the starting line at Samuel Staples Elementary School in Easton on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. Pastor and his wife, Denise, both runners, started the race in 1999 and have watched it become one of the most popular events of the Fairfield County spring running circuit.
“Our race is a real community race,’’ Pastor said. “The diehards will come to race in any weather. We want this race to include them, but also people who have never thought they would be able to run a 5k.”
Most benefit races are a celebration of community and running. Pastor adds an element of entertainment, and it has proven to be successful with runners. Depending on the weather, the race can attract close to 500 runners. The average field for the race is between 300-350 runners, Pastor said.
“In a lot of things I do, there’s a certain amount of showmanship that makes it a little bit different, a little more fun,’’ Pastor said.
“Everything I try to do with this race, or in the DARE program, is a little off the beaten path from what you would expect from a police officer. It’s a little different energy, but I think that’s what makes the race successful. And we have some volunteers who have been here for years, and they are the real backbone behind it.”
Pastor’s emphasis on entertainment can be traced back to a three-month class at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College in 1986. “They only take 50 people out of 5,000 applicants,’’ Pastor said. “It’s harder to get into than Georgetown.”
Pastor never traveled with the Big Top, however. He returned to Connecticut and did magic performances, which he had started doing at 12 years old, and built a little entertainment business. He started the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program in Easton in 1990, and launched a mobile entertainment business with Denise in 1996.
“The training in clown college was more useful than anything I’ve ever done,’’ Pastor said. “You learn a lot about character development. You get all of that performer stuff. It gave me everything I could use. I’ve taken elements from that into everything I do, even in police work. I think everything fell into place.”
Pastor brings all of that positive energy to the DARE race, and succeeds. Even if the weather is uncooperative, the music, food and volunteer spirit makes it one of the most fun races in Fairfield County. “I am very big on the people and volunteers being friendly, happy and fun,’’ Pastor said. “We just try hard to have happy people and a happy day. We try not to put on airs for anybody.”
For all of its festivity, the main goal of the race is to support DARE. Many of Pastor’s past and current students run the race. It is the biggest fund-raiser for the program, which is entirely self-funded.
“When we started the race, there was nothing in the area and we thought we’d take a shot,’’ Pastor said. “We thought it’d be a fun place to run. We haven’t always had the greatest weather, but the race plugs along. It’s been a great fund-raiser for us.”
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