By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
Over the past 10 years, more than 48,000 runners have participated in the Team in Training program of the Leukemia Society of America. In the process, these runners have run about 27 million miles and raised $100 million for research on a cure for leukemia.
Twice a year, the Leukemia Society invites runners to join the Team in Training to complete a fall or spring marathon. Last October, Team in Training runners completed the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. In June, participants will run the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in San Diego or the Anchorage Marathon in Alaska. Next October, runners can choose between the Marine Corps Marathon and the Dublin Marathon.
The Team in Training is the largest fund-raising program for the Leukemia Society. Participants pledge to raise a certain amount of money for the Leukemia Society. In return, the Team in Training provides the participants with a fitness program that helps them train for and complete a marathon. The fitness program is personalized to each runner, and includes a training program, advice and scheduled team runs. The program also includes transportation, accommodations and entry fees for the marathon. Virtually all the runners who join the Team in Training successfully raise the target funds and finish the marathon.
Making it personal
The Team in Training goes beyond the mechanics of raising money and running a marathon, both commendable causes. At the start of the training program, each runner is assigned a patient. The runner wears a bracelet with the patient's name throughout the 18-week program. On race day, the runner runs and completes the marathon in honor of that patient.
In Central New York, the Leukemia Society of America has so far organized Teams in Training for four marathons, the Marine Corps in 1995 and 1997, the Bermuda Marathon in 1997, and the San Diego Marathon in 1998. Plans are already under way for the fall 1998 marathons, with training expected to start early in the summer.
My running path has crossed that of the Team in Training several times in the past year. My long runs in preparation for the Marine Corps Marathon overlapped with those of the Team in Training, providing me an opportunity to meet some of the runners. On race day, it was a pure coincidence that I found myself staying at the same hotel as the Syracuse Team in Training.
Soaked to the bones
After partaking in the required pre-race cup of hot coffee, we wished one another good luck and walked to the start line. Many times throughout the marathon, as the torrential cold rain soaked us to the bones, a cheerful Team in Training coach urged us on from the dry comfort of a highway overpass.
Last March, I attended a Team in Training carbo-loading gathering at Manley Field House. The meeting followed the team's first long run in training for the June marathons. Vic Oliver, the team coach, introduced some 30 runners in training. Many runners were training for their first marathon, while some were veterans of many marathons. Oliver gave each runner a bracelet with a name. Many of the names on the bracelets were those of children fighting leukemia. Some of the children were present at Manley to meet their runners.
Fighting a good fight
The reality and the symbolism of the Team in Training are equally touching. It takes a healthy body to help a weakened body. As such, healthy runners help in fighting disease by raising money through their running. Similarly, just as it takes much support to train and run a marathon, so it takes a lot of help to fight a deadly disease.
Many of the patients matched with Team in Training runners survive their ordeal and celebrate their remission from disease. However, some patients reach their finish line before the runner reaches the start line of the marathon. This reality transforms the Team in Training into an emotional race against time, a race to run a marathon and a race to find a cure.
Runners interested in joining the Team in Training for the Marine Corps or the Dublin marathons can call Stephanie Perotti at 471-1050.
Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at email@example.com.