This is the story of the mighty NF Marathon Team -- runners who have found and nourished love, hope and meaning in using their hearts and legs to help raise funds for research to find a cure for neurofibromatosis (NF).
A life-changing experience
Joining our team has become a life changing experience for many. Team member Joanne Witt says, "It's not about the running, it's about the camaraderie and spirit of the whole thing. The NF Marathon Team is a living, breathing, loving spirit that cannot be broken. There's more to it than running or raising money or even finding a cure. Until I was an active part of that, I couldn't possibly have understood that."
One of our members is Chris McKay, who did the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon (RNR) for the first time last year in honor of her daughter, Carly. Carly is 5 years old and battling brain tumors due to NF.
Matthew Leibowitz finished the last two miles of the RNR Marathon with the assistance of his walker (he does one mile an hour). Our NF Marathon team had the privilege of meeting up with him and crossing the finish line together -- the crowd was standing, cheering and crying as he crossed. Matt is coming back and training for five miles now, an amazing journey for him because each step he takes is painful.
Lesley Oslica says that she runs "to do something to make a difference, even if it's not in our lifetime ... a difference we hope to have made."
Running towards a cure
Is it worth it to train for months, through every kind of weather; scheduling time to run between doctor visits and tucking our children into bed to run beside thousands through the city streets? Is it worth the months of exhaustion after running a 16-mile training run to see our proud family cheering for us with teary eyes at mile 25 as we're about to complete our ultimate goal?
The answers are written across our faces, in the excitement in our voice, and in the joyful tears in our eyes. Running miles to better the life of another individual makes you a true hero. Whether you run for your child, parent, sibling, friend, or someone you haven't even met, you're improving the lives of 100,000 other individuals with NF in this country alone.
NF Marathon Team members are a unique breed. We are mothers juggling our child's soccer practice, or fathers who were once quiet about NF who now proudly wear a bright yellow NF jersey; we are aunts and uncles, neighbors and coworkers.
We may or may not have known about NF a year ago, but now help spread awareness. We ask anyone and everyone to make a donation to the Children's Tumor Foundation so these individuals will one day have effective treatments and even a cure for this painful and frightening disorder. And most importantly, we are strong.
Woodrow Wilson said, "We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day or in the red fire of a long winter's evening. Some of us let these great dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through bad days till they bring them to the sunshine and light, which comes always to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true."
As proud and courageous members of the NF Marathon Team, we are running and growing bold dreams; to "go the distance" and provide the funds to solve the NF puzzle -- that's our ultimate finish line.
For more information about NF, please visit www.ctf.org.
Article edited by Joanne Witt