Marathon runner-to-be runs with purpose

April 15, 2002|BY ANDREA ROWLAND

When rookie runner Diane Lewis needs inspiration while pushing for that extra mile, she looks to her wrist.

The young leukemia patient whose name graces Lewis' bracelet is her reason to run, she said.

Lewis, 46, who lives near Funkstown, will face her ultimate physical challenge in June when she participates in the Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon in Alaska to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, she said.

Lewis - who has never run more than three miles at a time - and other members of a local team preparing for the 26-mile race wear the name of leukemia patient Mikey Menzel, 9, of Frederick, Md., on their wrists to keep the focus of their mission in mind as they train for the endurance race, Lewis said.

"Raising the money for the Leukemia Society will help Mikey and a lot of local people," she said.

An estimated 109,500 people in the United States will be diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma this year, according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Web site.


There were about 26 adult leukemia patients in Washington County from January 2001 to the present, said Washington County Hospital spokeswoman Kelly Redmond. The number of county children with leukemia was not available, Redmond said.

Leukemia, myeloma and lymphoma are blood-related cancers that involve malignant cells multiplying and interfering with the body's production of healthy blood cells.

When Lewis received information in the mail about the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training (TNT), the world's largest endurance sports training program, she thought the opportunity "looked more promising than Publisher's Clearinghouse," she said.

She wanted to support a worthy cause, travel and improve her physical condition since suffering serious injuries in a September 2000 car accident, Lewis said.

"I look at this as an adventure," she said.

Lewis must raise $4,000 for blood-related cancer research by early June to participate in the marathon. Asking individuals and businesses to sponsor her has been "a big hurdle" for a woman who feels uncomfortable soliciting for funds, she said.

Lewis had raised only a few hundred dollars as of Wednesday, she said, but she plans now to put as much energy into fund-raising for her cause as she has to training for the marathon.

Training around her work schedule as supervisor for social work and addictions at the Maryland Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown, Lewis now runs about seven miles two to three times a week, she said.

And every Saturday morning since February, Lewis and about 15 other runners from Frederick to Cumberland, Md., have met with Team in Training coach Todd Archibald at the C&O Canal towpath near Brunswick, Md., to prepare for the marathon, she said.

Lewis and her team members have gradually increased their running distance from three miles to 16 miles since February, she said.

She had planned to run the half-marathon but learned Archibald was only training for the 26-mile race.

"I'm starting to feel it now," Lewis said. "I'm pushing myself."

Under Archibald's tutelage, team members have learned about pacing themselves, proper hydration, nourishment and equipment, Lewis said.

"Little by little, we have learned how to train for this race," she said. "No matter how old I am, or how slow I am, (Archibald) has gotten me up to 16 miles so far. I trust that he's going to have me ready for the race."

In return for raising money for cancer research and competing in the race, TNT will pay for Lewis' airfare, food and lodging. She will leave for Anchorage on June 20, run June 22, and return June 24.

Individuals and businesses who wish to sponsor Lewis can make checks payable to the Leukemia Society and send to P.O. Box 56, Fairplay, MD 21733-0056. All donations are tax-deductible.

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