COLUMBIA — Imagine training for a 26-mile marathon in the hot days of summer in mid-Missouri. Sweltering heat and suffocating humidity only increase the agony of running another mile. Mile after mile, boredom has set in, and the iPod is no longer useful. The ear buds won't stay in; sweat is the culprit. Add to that the physical pain that comes with running many miles.
But this type of pain is nothing in comparison to the pain of those who are suffering from cancer and the agonizing affects of chemotherapy. The rigors of training for this marathon are a reminder of those who are suffering, but also as an effort to raise money to find a cure. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training sports program, does just that.
Need: Team in Training for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Time frame: Six months
Cost: Time and energy spent in training for a marathon, triathlon, bike ride or hike
Contact: Director Kobi Gillespie at email@example.com or 800-264-CURE
Web site: teamintraining.org/gat/
Participants train for five or six months to run or walk half-marathons, marathons, triathlons, hikes and century (100-mile) bike rides, while raising money toward cures for leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.
All participants are provided training and support through a personal coach, teammates and a diet and exercise regimen.
Sports programs go on all year and are located across the U.S. and abroad.
Marie Kerl, 47, and Philip Johnson, 50, are participating in the 2008 Chicago marathon with Team in Training. It's their second marathon with the group.They are running in memory of a dear friend's son, Keegan Burke Grant, who lost his battle with cancer at the age of 8.
Despite their pain, both Kerl and Johnson know that their pain is nothing in comparison of the pain of those who are suffering from cancer and the agonizing affects of chemotherapy. It is the inspiration of Keegan's mom, Mimi, that propelled both Kerl and Johnson into volunteering for TNT in 2007. But, also, they saw the magnitude and positive effects of the society.
Seventy-five percent to 85 percent of fundraising from the races goes directly to the cause of fighting cancer through research. "They do a good job of making sure that what people donate goes directly toward the cause," Kerl said.
The five- to six-month commitment, the rigors of training and fundraising efforts can be quite a sacrifice. For Kerl, training is hard, she said, because she is not an athlete. But with every mile passed on those training days she gains the confidence to go another mile. And besides, if she starts feeling sorry for herself, she said, she thinks about Keegan and those affected by cancer. "It gives you focus outside of yourself and your own misery at the moment," Kerl said.
And although it is not natural for her to ask people for donations, any fear she has had about fundraising has disappeared. She exceeded her goal by almost $1,200 for training in 2007 and is hoping to raise even more this year.
"I was really overwhelmed by people's generosity," she said. "People are incredibly gracious and giving."
When the long-awaited day of the event finally arrives, running the marathon is "perhaps easier than you can imagine," Johnson said. "There are thousands of people surrounding you, cheering you on, calling out your name." And running beside 1,500 other TNT runners is an added motivation. Each runner gives a face to the disease.
This disease has no boundaries, said Kerl. "It affects people of all ages, races, and social economic status. Everyone knows someone affected by cancer."
For information about Kerl, go to pages.teamintraining.org/gat/chicago08/mkerl
For information about Johnson, go to pages.teamintraining.org/gat/chicago08/pjohnson