People get into running, or marathoning, specifically, for a host of reasons. As I’ve talked about before, I was inspired to run my first marathon because I wanted to fundraise for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and honor my DePaul friend, Traci’s, mom, Carol, who had battled non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and its consequent implications, since 2001.


In 2007, I convinced Traci that running a marathon was a good idea, and we both ran our first mary that year–Chicago (the hellaciously hot one… we were hazed into the marathoning community). The following year, Traci made it a family affair and got two of her three siblings to come to Chicago from Michigan to run, and her folks came out as well both years to support everyone, getting special shirts, scarves, you name it made.

Four of these Ackrons + family friends ran Chicago '08, and all of them came in from MI to run or support. Pretty awesome.
Four of these Ackrons + family friends ran Chicago ’08, and all of them came in from MI to run or support. Pretty awesome.

After Traci left Chicago for medical school in Washington state in 2011, she obviously had more exponentially-difficult time constraints that made training for, running, and fundraising for marathons pretty difficult, but other DePaul friends of hers continued to run and fundraise for the LLS to honor her mom as well as the entire Ackron family.

I mean, really, just read Michelle’s fundraising page for the LLS here to get a glimpse of how special Traci and her family had become to pretty much everyone they met…

Personally, I have the Ackron family to thank for my marathoning pursuit because if I hadn’t gotten involved with Team in Training back in ’07, it’s unlikely I would have done a marathon in my lifetime and continued to do them as I do. When I initially committed to Chicago ’07 in January of that year, it was a purely bucket-list thing; in fact, I remember distinct conversations I had, wherein I’d say ridiculous things like “I’m not planning to die anytime soon, but in the event that I do, I want to cross this off my list sooner rather than later. It’s probably hard to do a marathon when you’re old.”

with the Ackron familia at the '08 Chicago TNT pasta dinner
with the Ackron familia at the ’08 Chicago TNT pasta dinner
Just a handful of TNT Chicago '08 runners at the pasta dinner; can you spot Traci and me?
Just a handful of TNT Chicago ’08 runners at the pasta dinner; can you spot Traci and me?

I haven’t fundraised and trained with Team in Training since ’08 because of scheduling issues, more than anything, but some of my regular training buddies and friends (including my Saturday morning partner, Jack, my coach in ’08) I met through TNT.

My usual Saturday training partner and former TNT coach
My usual Saturday training partner and former TNT coach

Most recently, I wrote in my Eugene report that on the hardest and most surprising hill on that course, around mile 8, the spectators thickly lined the street, making that dirty SOB hill fly by, and it was on this hill that I had a “mental moment” with Traci and her mother because Team in Training coaches, signs, and spectators just lined the street purple. It was tough to read and internalize some of the signs because they were tough statistics to swallow, particularly about children and leukemia, but for at least a few strides up that hill, I thought of the Ackron family and how amazing they all are and how much of a badass Traci’s mother had been since her diagnosis with NHL and subsequent challenges that were merely implications of her disease. I was proud of the Ackron women for being so brave, and so courageous, and for not giving up.

In the past week, Traci’s mother’s health took a turn, and she somewhat unexpectedly died Thursday evening in Michigan, surrounded by just a few of the many members of humanity (her family) who thought the world of her and who were inspired by her passion for living her life every single day, no matter her illness or strength. My gaggle of DePaul girlfriends and I had been emailing fast and furious all week, trying to figure out what we could do for our girl, and ultimately, unfortunately, there was nothing we could physically do; all we could do was continue to be the friends that we are to Traci and help her celebrate her mother’s legacy.

Traci is my first friend, close to me in age, who has had a parent pass away, and to say it terrified me is damn near offensively inadequate. One of the first things Traci said to me at her mother’s service yesterday in Michigan was that she knew this would happen “sooner or later… I just thought it’d be much later,” and I couldn’t agree more. Having my own mother endure health-related issues of her own since the time I was in undergrad, between her cancer and subsequent stroke, Traci’s mother’s illness and passing has hit home in more ways than one.

Perhaps the thing that stands out most to me is that, while I didn’t know her mother personally, and had only met her a few times, the connection that I have between her mother/family and my own running and marathoning is pretty thick; after all, like I said, I probably wouldn’t be doing this stuff had I not been so closely involved with Team in Training in 2007 & 08. One of my distinct honors was meeting her mother and family at the ’08 Chicago TNT pasta dinner; that was also the year where nearly all the whole Ackron clan ran the race in toasty temperatures (and all finished). Our running the marathon to honor Traci’s mother, and to advance the science behind NHL to ensure that no one else need fall victim to its nastiness, left an indelible impression on the Ackron family to the extent that they talked about it at her mother’s services yesterday.

Being singled out at a funeral isn’t something that I had in mind when I started running marathons, but as we all know, running is powerful.

It can change your life.

And others’.

Chicago ’13 will be my fourth go at my hometown course and hopefully on a day that’s far south of 80 degrees (please… really), and aside from being another notch in my vegan marathon belt, it’ll be marathon #20 for me, which is meaningful in and of itself.

My race is for Team Ackron this year.

I don’t yet know my goals, nor will I think about them for a few more weeks, but I know why I’m running this year.

To celebrate.

And remember.

With Traci and her mother, the honoree
With Traci and her mother, the honoree

What'cha thinkin?