Serena Williams got teary-eyed at the finish line of the New York Marathon a few weeks ago as she watched Caroline Wozniacki complete the race. The tennis players have become close friends and running enthusiasts. Williams hopes they will run together in South Beach on Dec.14 as she hosts the inaugural Serena Williams Ultimate Run.
The charity event will include The Quarter Marathon (6.55 miles), a 5K Run/Walk and Ultimate KIDS Dash. Proceeds will support the Serena Williams Fund, which provides assistance to families affected by violent crimes and finances two schools in Kenya.
In addition to Wozniacki, Williams’ sister Venus, Andy Murray and other surprise guests are expected to attend.
“It was so exciting to see Caroline finish,” Williams said by phone Wednesday. “It was such a big moment, and I’m an emotional individual. I know she went through a lot this year — we both did.”
Top-ranked Williams is ready to put the 2014 tennis season behind her. Her sole Grand Slam title of the year was the U.S. Open, which she won over Wozniacki. Williams lost in the Round of 32 at Wimbledon, Round of 64 at the French Open and Round of 16 in Australia.
“I put so much pressure on getting to [Slam title] No.18 that I kind of panicked a little, got a little tight and stressed out,” she said. “Getting even with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova was a little too much for me to handle. I kept thinking, ‘Is this going to happen? Is it not? Am I always going to be stuck at 17?’ The weight’s been lifted off my chest, and now I can just play free. No.19’s going to be easier.”
Williams got the idea to host a charity run last Thanksgiving, when she ran a 5K in Palm Beach.
“Every year, I do a run for Thanksgiving, the 5K or 10K, to kick-start my training for the year, and last year after running the 5K, I thought, ‘Wow, I really should do my charity based on running because it’s a really fun way to promote a healthy lifestyle.
“People love it. You can run, walk, bring your family, it’s early in the morning. I love karaoke, so at my race, afterward you can go on the beach, relax, have Gatorade and sing karaoke.”
Williams started running 10 years ago to stay in shape for tennis.
“It definitely helps your endurance on the court,” she said. “You feel you can run so many miles, you can last three hours, four hours if you need to. I like running the shorter distances, like 5K. You don’t kill your body, but you can still feel part of the race atmosphere.”
Her foundation has personal meaning to Williams because her sister Yetunde was murdered in 2003, leaving behind small children. She was moved to open the schools in Kenya after watching a video.
“Those kids were bending down using sticks as pencils and dirt as a paper. I was like, ‘Wow, some kids in America have everything and don’t want to learn, and over there they have nothing and they’re doing everything they can to learn.”
Race fees range from $20 for the kids’ race to $45 for adults. For more information and to register, visit www.theultimaterun.com.