Good running, giving back

Survivors abound in the world of charity running events

"I am not a wounded warrior. I was a wounded toddler," I overheard Kelly Luckett say during a run meet up downtown.

While it is not the most important or interesting thing about Kelly, the result of her "wounded toddler" episode is often the first thing people notice. This nine time Boston Marathon participant, Ultra marathon runner lost her right leg.

As an aside, you will find that the members of the ragtag group "Savannah Rough Runners" may show up in "More Than Miles" a bit more frequently than would typically be prudent of a traditional column.

Journalistic ideals tend to favor the unbiased. Lucky for me, I tend to not be traditional or a journalist.

Back to last Saturday.

The Challenged Athletes Foundation was founded in 1997 to help the physically challenged have the opportunity to pursue an active lifestyle. They assist all types of disabilities with no regard to ability level or previous athletic performance. In other words, you don't have to be fast, you just have to be willing — an idea The Savannah Rough Runners totally get.

For many physically challenged athletes, doing this on their own is not only a physical hurdle, but a financial one. Kelly explained, "Do you know that a below-knee running prosthesis, such as mine, costs around $15,000? Insurance considers it a luxury and very few companies ever cover the cost."

Loosely sanctioned and promoted by word of mouth, Masumi's 24 Hour Run for Challenged Athletes Foundation at Daffin Park brought out runners of various interest, distance, and speed. They flowed in and out over the course of the day and through the night.

Good running, giving back
Masumi Herota & Kelly Luckett at the 24 Hour Run for Challenged Athletes Foundation at Daffin Park

When 8 a.m. Sunday rolled around, Lara Zoller, who had kicked off the race with a stirring performance of The Star Spangled Banner, finished up the event with a whopping 100 miles logged around Daffin Park.

The runners raised nearly $1,000 for the charity.

Charity running is not new in Savannah. Anyone with a 5k T-shirt (and there are a ton of those!) can see what cause was supported through those miles. Some are as new and organic as the Daffin Park Run, showing that the feet of a few can make a difference. Still another has been working out the details for 25 years and turned the training cycle into a cancer fighting army.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training has been raising money to help combat blood cancers since 1988. Spearheaded locally by Jennie Brewster, this organization works with participants to attain event specific training and fundraising goals.

"TNT mostly attracts beginner runners and walkers," says Jennie, "but we also have lots of alumni, intermediate and advanced runners, triathletes, and cyclists.  We really run the gamut.  It's a very encouraging, non-intimidating environment. Any level of fitness is welcome. It's a great way to meet new people and push yourself out of your comfort zone to accomplish big goals – all while supporting life changing blood cancer research."

Jennie gets very excited when she talks about her TNT participants. It is easy to see why. These courageous athletes come from all different types of backgrounds and abilities to do what they can to support the cause.

Tricia Thomas was in her late 50's and discouraged about her health. She joined TNT in spring of 2011 to walk the San Diego half marathon. RNR Savannah will now be her fourth half marathon.

Diane Woods is a leukemia survivor in her 50's. She had never done any type of race. This year she is training for her second half marathon.

 David Costrini is a triathlete in his fourth year of TNT. In memory of a family friend, Dr. Jane Philbrick, he has raised somewhere around $50,000. He doesn't need TNT for the training but his continued involvement motivates others and makes him a valuable training resource.

 Doug Farley is a TNT monster story. A leukemia survivor, he completed his first marathon in 2011. Now an Ultra runner, he's planning to do the North Face Endurance 50K this season with TNT.

Milly and Joe Pitts run, bike, swim, and coach in memory of her father who lost his battle to blood cancer when she was a child in the 1960's. She is training to complete the America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride which covers 100 miles in Lake Tahoe.

In times of need, adversity, challenge, and oppression, runners will seek the solution in a run. Of course during times of excess, support, success, and liberation, runners will also run.

This leads some to say we are just looking for reasons to run. There is a lot of truth to that and I reply, "So what? Let's do some good work."


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