Several weeks ago, after we published the story of Wilton resident Lindsay Wheeler, who will be running the 44th Annual TSC NYC Marathon to raise awareness for mental health, GOOD Morning Wilton put out a call for more stories from other residents also planning on running the race this Sunday, Nov. 2. As always, we’re blown away by the causes close to people’s hearts, especially when they’re moved to put in long hours and extraordinary physical effort to train to run 26.2 miles, all with a higher goal, to benefit someone or something else. We’ll share a couple stories today, Thursday and Friday to honor them and their efforts.

Today we’re telling the story of two friends, each running for separate reasons but running together too. They are both running to fundraise for CT Challenge, the Cancer Survivorship Center.

More than a Dream Come True

by Jenn Lewis

Jenn Lewis

Twenty-five years ago I was in my college apartment with the TV on hoping to get a glimpse of my sister, Nancy, who was running her first marathon, which was NY.  I told my roommates that my dream was to someday run a marathon with my sister. That truly has been the only thing that has been on my life-time bucket list.

While I went on to get a job, get married have children, etc, my sister continued running like a crazy lady! By the time Nov. 2 comes around, my sister will have run approximately 75 marathons along with several ultra-marathons, several 50 milers and even her first 100 miler this past year!

Along the way, I would go through phases of getting in shape and attempt to run a 5K or something like that, and I always ended up injured. Then, four years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer, broke my ankle – that really “fun” year in there. I remember having a fleeting thought about the marathon shortly after being diagnosed with cancer–you know one of those thoughts, ‘Crap I never got around to doing that….’  Then after the broken ankle, I laid there after surgery saying to myself, Kiss that dream good-bye!

I finally had resolved that it wasn’t going to happen. And then CT Challenge came into my life and helped me look forward to the next chapter of my life –living and thriving post-cancer diagnosis. The CT Challenge staff were the ones who introduced me to Jean Desrosiers, the owner of Sherpa. They had me work with him to help train me for my first CT Challenge 50-mile bike ride. It was after training with Jean for a few months that made me realize I was capable of accomplishing anything I put my mind to. The tag-line of his company is “Move Your Boundaries,” which is exactly what I have been trying to do for the past four years, thanks to him and his amazing staff.

My goal of running NY Marathon with my sister re-surfaced about two or three years ago. I started talking to Jean about it after I successfully completed my first half-marathon. I had a few injuries along the way but still was planning that I was going to accomplish this goal. My sister and I talked about it a couple years ago and decided NY would be the marathon that we would do, A) because that was her first and B) because if you’re going to run any one marathon, NY is the way to go. It just so happened that it worked out that this is my sister’s 25th anniversary of running her first marathon–the NY Marathon.

Last year, I sat at home and watched the NY Marathon on TV with tears streaming down my face knowing that this year (2014) was going to be my year. It has definitely been an emotional and physical journey training for the race. There are many times as I am running that I burst into tears thinking there is no way I will ever finish this and then there I times that I cry as I envision myself crossing that finish line.

It has also been very emotional for me as a dear friend of mine passed away this summer from cancer. We were close friends and had helped each other over the years through each of our cancer journeys. Even though she is gone physically, she is still very much with me in spirit and shows up on my runs when I need a boost. I know she will be shining down on me for the whole 26.2 miles.

So on Nov. 2, I get to run 26.2 miles with my sister, Nancy, something I have been dreaming about for 25 years. It will truly be one of the best experiences of my life.

To donate to Jenn Lewis’ fundraising effort, visit her online webpage.

Beating Last Year’s Time to Beat Cancer

by Lisa Schneider

Lisa Schneider

Sunday will be my third marathon in three years.  Each marathon has a special meaning for me.

My first, which was in 2012, was for my mom. My mother passed away at age 46 of ovarian cancer. She is the person who got me into running as a teenager.  As I was approaching 46, the reality of just how young she was when she died really hit home. I decided that would be my year to run in honor of her. My first marathon at age 46, the age my mother passed away.

2012 was the year Sandy hit and the marathon got cancelled.

I was devastated, and my family and friends rallied around in support. Because I was trained, had an army of supporters out there for me, and this run was so important to me, I decided to run anyway. I had picked up my bib in NY just hours before the cancellation was announced so marathon Sunday, I pinned on my bib, and ran my own marathon from my home in Wilton to the house where I grew up in Darien, and back.

Some people questioned how I could ever run a marathon alone. I wasn’t alone. From my first mile to my last, I never had a stretch of more than three miles where I didn’t see a family member or friend out there cheering for me, taking pictures or refilling my water. My son made a toilet paper finish line across my driveway and my husband, kids, friends and a friend’s dog, ran the last tenth of a mile with me to complete my race.

2013 was the year I chose to run New York as my make-up year from 2012. I got back into training and had a goal to beat my 2012 time by 30 mins. The training was going smoothly, I felt great and by October, I was putting the finishing touches on the longest runs of my training schedule. Then, just two weeks prior to the marathon, a very, very close friend, Marc, died suddenly.

I had not felt such a profound loss since the death of my mother. A few people asked if I was still going to run. I said, ‘Absolutely,’ that I would run for Marc and his family. I wrote his name on one of my sneakers and the word “mom” on the other, put his name on the back of my shirt, and ran for him. It was a windy marathon Sunday. I had been telling everyone that Marc would be the wind at my back for 26.2–he was. I beat my prior time by nearly 30 mins.

The experience of 2013 was like nothing I had ever experienced and I decided before even crossing the Verranzano Narrows Bridge, that I would be running NY again in 2014. My goal is to beat my 2013 time by 30 mins. I got entry this year through a charity, CT Challenge Center For Survivorship. My friend, Jenn Lewis, had such a great and powerful experience with CT Challenge that I did not hesitate to join her in fundraising for the Center.

Jenn is tackling her first marathon in NY. I have felt so much joy sharing this experience with her, encouraging each other, bartending at Marly’s to raise money, and complaining about the taper week! This year I run for CT Challenge, for my mom, for Marc and this time, a little for me.  I have learned so much about myself through my training over the last three years.  I have developed a great sense of pride in my accomplishments and I plan to celebrate that.

I have the best family and friends who have been with me all three years, and I can’t wait to high five many of them on the streets of New York this Sunday.  And I WILL beat last year’s time by 30 minutes.

To donate to Lisa Schneider’s fundraising effort, visit her online webpage