This is Ken. (and me) I know 2 things about Ken. He completed the Marine Corp Marathon this past Sunday in Washington, D.C., and he did it with Team in Training.
Where to start… My mom died in 1995 of complications due to Hodgkins lymphoma. A few years later, I received “the card in the mail” from Team in Training, a fund-raising endeavor of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. For those of you who know about TNT, (Team in Training, because for obvious reasons, TIT just doesn’t do it) approximately 90% of participants say “the card” is what brought them to the info meeting that got them to register.
“Complete a marathon in London… all expenses covered.” What’s the catch? I threw it out.
I received another card in 2001 and noticed that it said that you can WALK. I brought it into my new job to show my new coworker turned soulmate-ish friend who immediately said, “Let’s do it. I want to do this with you. For your mom.”
Oh crap. We’re doing a marathon.
It ended up being a half marathon, which is always 13.1 miles. A marathon is always 26.2 miles, and a half marathon is always 13.1 miles. Why, you ask? Because Pheidippides allegedly ran that far from the Battle of Marathon to Athens, Greece to announce that the Persians had been defeated in 490 BC. And then he keeled over and died. For those of you familiar with the marathon, you understand why.
We didn’t attend the group trainings all season, we didn’t return phone calls from our Mentors or Coaches. We showed up in New Orleans in February for the race and were sorry we didn’t participate with the rest of the “team” all those months leading up to event weekend. We sat at the pasta party the night before the race and cracked up listening to John “The Penguin” Bingham. We had an awesome time in New Orleans with Coach Dean and Staff Robert. We walked a half marathon in what I remember to be approximately 4 hours and 45 minutes.
When we got home, I filled out the paperwork for the Alaska Mayor’s Midnight Sun Half Marathon, brought it over to Dawn’s desk and asked her to sign. Surprisingly, without bribery, she did. Off we went, and I’ve been involved with Team in Training ever since.
Team in Training is a fund-raising endeavor of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The Society’s mission is to “find a cure for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma and to improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” In exchange for your commitment to raise funds to support their mission, TNT provides you with everything you need to walk or run a half or full marathon, 100 mile “century” bike ride or triathlon. Close to 75% of funds raised go directly to support the cause. More than a lot of other non-profits out there. Our coaching staff is amazingly supportive, experienced, dedicated and self-less. Our Mentors will do whatever it takes. Our staff is made up of the most organized people I’ve ever known. And our Honored Teammates, truly inspirational and the reason we’re here. We are the largest endurance sport training program in the world.
TNT has trained more than 400,000 participants over 20 years and has raised more than 1 billion dollars. One. billion. dollars. It sounds like a lot, but we need more.
My step-dad also died of a blood cancer years later, and it strengthened my commitment to the cause. I’ve been a participant, a Fund-raising Mentor, and now a Walk Coach and all-around TNT supporter. I’ve met and trained with blood cancer survivors who motivate and inspire me. I’ve made life-long friends and receive unwavering support on the course from strangers in purple.
So back to Ken. I was at the Marine Corp Marathon to support some friends and strangers in purple last weekend, crazy purple and green hat and feather boa for recognition, cowbell in hand. Ken passed me at mile 11.5, tired and sweaty. “Great job, Ken!” I turned back around toward the oncoming runners, waiting for a friend, cowbell ring ring, cowbell ring ring.
I felt a tap on the shoulder. “Are you really with Team in Training?” I turned back around, and was surprised that Ken had come back. “Yeah, why?”
“I need a hug.”
Well I hugged him again right before mile 15 and again at the bridge at 20. I looked for him and cheered him on at the finish.
Ken, I don’t know your story, and I don’t even know who you are, but you are one of the reasons I’m here, doing this. Congratulations on completing the Marine Corp Marathon, and thank you for being a hero.