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UCentral | March 17, 2013

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Runners on a Mission

Runners on a Mission
Lindsey Rickards

Many long distance runners find the task less daunting with comfortable tennis shoes, flexibly fit clothing, and an armband to secure a music device.  These are not essential ingredients for running a marathon, but they are luxuries that make the task of a 26.2-mile endurance test easier to complete.

Race day is a chance for runners to establish that the immense trainings they’ve subjected themselves to prove worthy.  Silent eagerness occurs at the starting line as runners take their place in a crouched lunge position.  The gun’s explosion sounds signaling runners to set out on their trek.  A steady stride provides runners with a good pace and sound mind to complete their journey.

These are constituents of marathon running that will eventually lead to a well-deserved conclusion of a willing individual in an endurance competition.

For some taking home the gold medal after a race against hundreds or thousands of competitors is a goal to achieve.  For others finishing the race without walking, no matter how slow the pace, is a sufficient reward.  Self-accomplishment is enough to boost any ego when it comes to the personal achievement of finishing a marathon, though for some people self-fulfillment is not the only component that drives them.

Brittney Criswell, coordinator of health promotion and Danielle Dill, assistant director of fitness and health promotion at UCO, run to help others.

The two proudly wear lime green NIKE dry-fit finishers shirts and silver Tiffany necklaces, trophies they had received from NIKE for completing the marathon.  Criswell disclosed that all participants in the race received a Tiffany’s necklace instead of a traditional medal.

Criswell and Dill successfully completed their first full marathon on Oct. 14, 2012 during the NIKE Women’s Marathon in San Francisco.  “Greater cause than just yourself,” Dill explained in her reasoning for competing in Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team in Training events.

NIKE was Dill’s fourth Team in Training (TNT) event after completing a half marathon, a triathlon, and century bike ride.  Since she had previously participated in other TNT endurance events she knew what to expect when it came to the fundraising.

The NIKE Women’s Marathon was one of many charitable fundraising events held by the LLS Team in Training program as a way to involve people in their mission.  The mission of LLS, according to their website, www.lls.org, is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, myeloma and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.  Criswell and Dill believe that the idea of helping others kept them going during the race.  “This sucks, but not as much as cancer,” said Criswell, recalling her thoughts during the marathon.

Fundraising options are unlimited, but to participate one must raise a certain amount of money.  Criswell and Dill raised the combined amount of $5,450 for LLS.

“Fundraising seemed scary to me at first”, said Criswell, “but I learned that once people realized what I was raising money for and that their donation was truly going to help another human being, I think that it made it easier.”

To raise money for LLS the two organized events, like a Zumbathon, which took place at the UCO Wellness Center, and a Jam Night, which took place at Mojo’s Blues Club in Bricktown.

According to Dill over 12 metro Oklahoma City instructors volunteered to teach and lead the Zumbathon class.  75 participants paid $10 to take the class. All of the proceeds from the class went to LLS.

According to Criswell donation boxes were set up throughout the bar during Jam Night.  The club donated 20 percent of its sales to LLS, while the bartenders and musicians donated 100 percent of their tips.  “Fundraising takes hard work and commitment,” said Dill, “It has been so great to have so much support from family, friends, and co-workers.”

Early every Saturday morning for 18 weeks, Criswell and Dill met for their large group Team in Training long run to prepare their bodies for the event.  Criswell stated that TNT provides each participant with a training plan, which includes shorter runs and a cross training guide to complete individually during the week.

Coaches provided through LLS lead the TNT practices.  “The coaches run with you,” said Criswell recalling the marathon.  She also mentioned that she suspected the TNT coaches to have ran over 30 miles throughout the marathon to encourage other runners.  “The people in this program are top notch,” said Dill.

All members of the LLS TNT participants received an official TNT race day shirt to wear during the marathon.  Participants ranged from volunteers to survivors.  “To look around and see a sea of purple is pretty powerful,” said Dill.

The two would like their participation to influence others to take part in LLS events.  “It is my hope that someone can hear about my Team in Training journey, and that they will be inspired to either donate to LLS or take the next step to participate in a team in training event,” said Criswell, “truly together, we can find a cure for cancer, and its organizations like LLS that make this possible.”

After the long journey runners experienced exhaustion.  Some, like Dill, crossed the finish line and sat on the beach and as waves gently coaxed their legs they thought of how on this day they played a part in a cause greater than themselves.