Sue Brown and Valerie Small and Claudia O'Connell meet to run three or four times a week, usually in the early morning.
They run and they talk. And talk. Sometimes loudly. Sometimes so loudly that people tell them to pipe down (since it's 5:30 a.m.).
O'Connell, of Hamden, is a 12-year breast cancer survivor. She helped Brown, of Cheshire, who was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago. And they both helped Small, a physician from Branford, when she was diagnosed four years ago.
"They're amazing," said Small, who is 53, after she finished the Race in the Park 5K in 24 minutes, six seconds, as the first survivor.
The three are part of a larger running group, the Spring Glen Runners. There was a pack of them at the 3.1-mile race Saturday at Walnut Hill Park, along with over 1,600 other runners and thousands more walkers. The annual race benefits the CT Breast Health Initiative, which funds treatment and research in Connecticut.
"What you discover when you're running [with a group], is that you think you've got a problem when you start and by the end of it, nothing matters," Small said.
"Or everyone else has had a similar problem at some point in their life," said Brown, who has run nine marathons since she was diagnosed.
"And it's not that big," said Small.
That's part of the beauty of Saturday's race, which brings together breast cancer survivors (although O'Connell said she wished there was a more "forward-thinking" word to describe survivors), their families and friends, as well as people remembering loved ones who have died of the disease. Rebecca Lobo was there, with her father, Dennis, and her brother, Jason, and their families. Rebecca and Jason's mom, RuthAnn Lobo, who supported the race from its inception, died of breast cancer July 19, 2011. Dennis, the cross country track coach at Granby High, was the official starter for the men's race before he had to head out to a track meet in Simsbury; Rebecca spoke before the women's race.
"Rebecca Lobo said it correctly, 'This is all about hope,'" Small said. "It's about people helping one another and supporting one another. It's about love. Moving on. Making peace with the past and the present. It's a good thing."
James McKirdy of New Britain won the men's race in 16:20 and Megan Jaswell of Johnston, R.I., was the women's race winner in 19:23. Last year's women's winner, Erin Heslin Lopez of Norwood, Mass., who is four months pregnant with her second child, finished fourth.
Many were running in memory of, or in honor of, those with breast cancer. McKirdy, a personal trainer, ran for some of his clients. Lopez, who grew up in Berlin, ran for her mother, a five-year survivor.
Jay Kinney of Chicopee, Mass., ran for his aunt Eva, who died in 2001. Kinney, a tall guy, didn't stand out for his time (33:55) as much as he did for the pink bunny suit he wore.
"The suit was a good idea when I started," Kinney said. "I thought it would be fun, help motivate everybody out here. Everyone's out here for a great cause, running for loved ones who have suffered or passed because of the disease.
"My wife bought [the suit] online. I don't know why. She said, 'I got this suit, do you want to wear it when you run? I think it would be funny.'"
It was funny for spectators; not so much for Kinney after a few miles. It was overcast when the men ran but warm and humid.
"The first mile and a half, 2, was OK," Kinney said. "But I knew I had to hydrate and pace myself."
Karen Callahan of Unionville had been the top-finishing survivor at the race in the past but finished second (25:28) Saturday.
"I'm getting older, slowing down and I have a hamstring injury, but I'm just glad to be here," said Callahan, 47, who was diagnosed in 2000. "It doesn't really matter where I placed or what my time is. My daughters are here. My mom. A lot of friends.
"This was the first 5K I ever ran. I had surgery in February  and I was healthy enough to run it in May. That's my goal: to be healthy enough to run it every year."
Lauren Petersen of New Milford is only 28. She was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a common type of non-invasive breast cancer, seven months ago, and had a double mastectomy. She was walking with her mother-in-law, Kathy, Saturday, also a cancer survivor, while her husband, Chris, and two brothers, Tim and Brian Benzinger, ran.
"It's a bittersweet thing to go through," Petersen said. "It's just as awful as it can be, but it is also a very beautiful thing to go through because it gives you a whole new perspective on life. It makes rainy days like this still beautiful.
"I'm really happy to be here, wearing my pink as a survivor because I'm able to show everybody breast cancer doesn't choose — it can be in your 20s or 100 years old. Everybody should be aware of it and do screenings. I'm lucky that I had a symptom; otherwise, I may not have known it."