October 14, 2010

Four Cornellians Run In Chicago Marathon

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Four Cornell seniors were part of a seven-person team that completed the Chicago Marathon last Sunday in an effort to raise money for the Friedrich’s Ataxia Research Alliance. The FARAmones –– the self-named fundraising team composed of runners John Lagedrost, Matt Goldberg, Doug Worrall, Margaret Hay and three others are contributing over $13,400 to FARA, which seeks a cure for Friedrich’s Ataxia, a rare degenerative neuromuscular disorder. The bulk of the funds, which amounted to $15,043.50, came from the group’s participation in the 26.2-mile race on Oct. 10 in unusually hot conditions.

“When I came to the half-marathon point, I looked up and saw that it was 82 degrees,” Hay said. “I became light-headed and my fingers started feeling tingly, but I just made myself keep on going.”

The heat was an unpleasant change for Lagedrost and Goldberg, the two captains of The FARAmones, who completed the 2009 Chicago Marathon for the same cause in temperatures just above freezing.

“It was certainly a lot tougher than last year,” Lagedrost said. “It was difficult adjusting to the high temperatures. We definitely took full advantage of all the water stations along the way.”

Despite the abnormal heat, a record number for Chicago of over 37,000 runners completed the trek, including the four Cornellians who all managed the feat in under five hours. But the task was not without obstacles.

“Around mile 17 I hit a wall,” Hay said. “And with about a mile-and-a-half to go, I felt like I was going to pass out.”

A runner since age 12, Hay had never competed in a marathon until Sunday.

Lagedrost, from the western suburbs of Chicago, noted the difficulties near mile 17 as well.

“I think it’s a particularly rough patch. There isn’t any shade for a while and there aren’t as many fans. I took more breaks than usual during that stretch,” he said.

The cause continued to push the runners forward. Lagedrost’s 17-year-old sister Joanna, who suffers from FA, inspired the quartet to not only participate in the marathon, but to complete the run in order to demonstrate the capabilities of a pair of working legs –– something most people take for granted. Affecting one out of every 50,000 Americans, FA is an inherited disease inhibiting muscle control, coordination and speech.

“It’s tough watching my sister deal with [FA],” Lagedrost said. “She’s very positive, but she’s limited doing anything physically –– getting dressed, writing, pouring milk, etc.”

Lagedrost acknowledged that his sister’s physical disability is in stark contrast to one of the most impressive physical accomplishments: completing a marathon.

“Joanna can’t even walk, and we can do this!” he said. “We could’ve made speeches or handed out flyers about FA. But instead we thought ‘let’s realize how lucky we are to have control over these legs and use them to their full potential.’ That will really send a message.”

After creating The FARAmones in early 2009 and running last year’s Chicago Marathon, Lagedrost and Goldberg reached out and recruited five new members. Plans to run the 2010 Chicago Marathon were finalized early this year, and after training separately throughout the spring and summer, the four met up in Ithaca at the beginning of this semester for a few final runs together. Fighting for the cause –– including meeting and spending time with Joanna –– has already made a noticeable impact on the members of The FARAmones.

“The marathon was one of the most unforgettable, inspiring experiences of my life,” Worrall said. “I felt like I was running in honor of [Joanna]. I’ll always remember the feeling of euphoria and accomplishment when I crossed the finish line.”

The fundraising has brought The FARAmones closer together, too. “Doug, John and I are all in the same fraternity, and we’ve known each other since freshman year,” Goldberg said. “But spending this much time together –– training, fundraising, driving 13 hours to and from Chicago, running –– has been what’s really made us the closest of friends. We feel like a family.”

The FARAmones plan to expand in the future and continue fundraising, with the ultimate goal of increasing awareness about FA and funding research on the relatively unknown disease.

“We just want to keep raising funds for FARA so they can do research and hopefully find a cure,” Lagedrost said.

The FARAmones are doing their part, jump-starting what they hope to be a widespread wave of attention towards the disease. With the initial goal of raising $2,000 when the program began in 2009, the members received over $13,000 last year; in 2010, they more than doubled that figure.

“Our strides are paving the way for the cure,” Worrall said.

Original Author: Quintin Schwab