Greater Good

They Endure For A Cure

Article by Frank Geslani

Itâs 7am on a Saturday. Grapevineâs sane majority have elected to sleep in, oblivious to the quiet tremolo of a hundred footfalls around the trails of Lake Grapevine. This is where you will find Team In Trainingâs Northwest Cities run / walk team most Saturday mornings.

On any given training, expect a motley collection of ages, genders, shapes, statures and ethnicitiesâa 20-something student, a 30-something homemaker, a 40-something office drone, a 70-something retiree. Outside of Team In Training, they may have nothing in common. But there is one thing that unites them, besides the obscene hour theyâve gotten up on a weekend. Theyâre all helping to cure cancer.

Team In Training, known in the shorthand as TNT, is an endurance sports training program that supports The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (or LLS). Participants train for full and half marathons, century bike rides, triathlons, hikes and obstacle races while raising money to help LLS find a cure for blood cancers, which at one time were considered â100 percent fatal.â The organization has been instrumental in making blood cancers more curable today.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Iâve been a TNT participant off and on since 2010. FURTHER DISCLOSURE: Getting back into training can be brutal. A series of ill-timed injuries have left me in shabby condition for a five mile run, but the teamâs spirit electrifies me like an old-fashioned revival. So I run.

On this morning, Iâve managed to keep pace with Jamie Shirley, whom Iâve met before, and Freida Webb, whom Iâve not. Minutes into the run, I feel like Iâve been training with Webb for an entire season. Part of it is the familiar, goodhumored ribbing between Webb and Shirley. The other part is and underlying purposefulness that punctuates Webbâs every stride. âI run for my daughter,â says Webb. She recently completed the Nike Womenâs half Marathon in San Francisco in memory of her daughter who died from a blood cancer in her early 20s. âSheâs with me on every run.â Stories like Webbâs are woven into the fabric of this group. Stories of loss. Stories of triumph. Stories of self-discovery.

Stories like eduardo Sobrinoâs, the tale of a man who was once 40 pounds overweight and has since re-invented himself as a fierce TNT triathlete and who has served as a mentor, captain and assistant coach for TNTâs North Texas triathlon team. âInstead of playing golf, I spend those hours on a bike or on a run,â says Sobrino. he didnât start out with a personal connection to the cause, but he says he relishes the satisfaction of helping others while staying fit and making new friends. âA lot of people I hang out with are TNT alumni. Theyâre like a second family.â

There are stories like Joyce Williams,â a tale of living with indolent myeloma. âThis is my new normal,â says Williams, who has emerged from the other side of chemo and now looks forward to her first visit to San Francisco for the Nike Womenâs Marathon, her first event with TNT. Training has been almost celebratory for her, a way to stick it to cancer and give back to LLS which helped develop treatments that have kept her, as she puts it, âhealthy, except for the cancer.â

Team In Training has its own compelling backstory. In 1988, Bruce cleland formed a team of 38 runners to raise $322,000 for LLS in honor of his daughter, Georgia, a leukemia survivor. cleland and companyâs first strides gave rise to a charitable behemoth. Today, TNT is celebrating its 25th year. Over 570,000 participants have raised more than a $1.3 billion, $875 million of that directly invested in cancer research. So far in this fiscal year, 665 North Texas participants have raised $1,886,900 and counting. Georgia Cleland herself has transitioned from child cancer survivor to TNT participant, recently running in her first distance events.

âFundraising is the easy part,â says participant Kathleen Tucker who is fundraising in memory of her late brother who died of multiple myeloma. âIâm determined to keep others from having late brothers,â she declares. By the time she and her husband, Mike run the chicago Marathon, she says they will have raised about $13,000 for LLS through TNT and Light the Night Walkâanother LLS fundraising event.

For others, distance is still the most daunting part. each season, Team In Training turns ordinary people into athletes, pushing them to their personal edge, unleashing the extraordinary in all of them. âItâs amazing what your body can do,â says first timer, Melissa Marsh. Today, sheâs easing up with a 6-mile walk before the Wounded Warrior half Marathon. âWhen I started, if you told me Iâd have to go six miles, Iâd say âhow the hell am I going to do that?â Now itâs just six miles,â she beams. Whether itâs six miles or 26, itâs nothing compared to the perilous journey of cancer survivors. Thereâs a special place for them in the TNT family. Theyâre called Honored Heroes.

Theyâre people like craig cornish, who was diagnosed with hodgkinâs lymphoma as a teen. (Blood cancers are the most common cancers in children). Today, heâs been seven years cured. he first joined TNT at the urging of Yvette dye, his childhood dentist who herself is training for her 40th event with TNT. cornish now looks ahead to his first full ironman triathlon. A self-described nerd who runs to the Final Fantasy soundtrack, cornish says, âItâs actually nerdy to be athletic. exercise makes you smarter. Iâm getting nerdier by the mile.â

Then thereâs honored hero, âMascotâ dave eckberg, a frequent and friendly face at TNT gatherings and an eloquent spokesperson for the advancements made possible by LLS. he keeps this group updated regularly on the experimental treatments that have kept his chronic lymphocytic leukemia at bay.

âMy cancer mutated into the worst kind, the kind that doesnât respond to chemo,â says eckberg. âIâve been in and out of remission for 11 years. Iâm fortunate. A lot of people die of the disease soon after diagnosis. My dad died of it.â Thanks to a new drug study, heâs back in remission, but he knows thereâs still a long road ahead.

When I hear âGo Teamâ along the trails of Lake Grapevine or on race day, itâs more than a morale booster, more than a rallying call. It is a reminder of what I run for, who I run for, what my Honored Heroes have faced. It is an acknowledgement that my chapter has been added to the larger story of cancer. Itâs a story still unfolding through countless storytellersâall of us hoping for the same happy ending.

To join Team In Training, find an upcoming informational meeting or to donate to a participant, visit www.TeamInTraining.org