MOUNT VERNON — What do a very busy mom, a volunteer for the Danville-Howard Turkey Festival, a 50-something and a seasoned marathoner have in common?
At first glance, the answer is they all work at the Howard Post Office. The more important answer is they have joined together to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymhpoma Society.
Julie Zimmer, Laurie Vales, Martha Bumpus and Samantha Merryman have joined the society’s Team in Training, raising money for research while at the same time training for the Columbus Marathon on Oct. 18. Merryman was the first one to get on track.
“I have been fundraising and running marathons with Team in Training for five years,” said Merryman, whose husband, Todd, is also a member of the team. “I initially got involved with TNT because I wanted to do a marathon. I learned about the organization … it’s such a good support group. They have coaches, doctors, and you train together.”
Merryman’s previous experience was with the Columbus chapter, and she wanted to get a group together locally.
“Julie and Martha have friends and family who have suffered from leukemia,” she said. “Laurie lost 60 to 70 pounds and wanted to do something to keep the weight loss going. Doing a marathon is a good way to stimulate weight loss goals.”
“My father-in-law was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in January, which is a form of lymphoma,” said Zimmer. “When Samantha said she was going to organize a team, I said, ‘Count me in.’”
“I have always wanted to do a marathon because my daughter did one several years ago,” said Bumpus. “My son and daughter are running [the Columbus Marathon], and I’m walking it.”
“I work with Samantha, and she’s done marathons in the past. I started last year and was working at losing weight. Samantha said, ‘Are you interested in doing this?’” Vales said of how she became involved.
Because of their schedules, the four have not always been able to train together, but all agreed that one of the benefits of Team in Training is the training tips and support provided by the society.
“Team in Training has scheduled training time, but it’s in Columbus,” said Bumpus. “I travel quite a bit so I don’t get there a lot. Samantha and I get together — we try to hook up for the long runs.
“The benefit is huge,” she added. “Just the distance — you have someone to talk to. It keeps your mind off the fact that you’re only on mile 4.”
Bumpus said she makes it in to the Columbus training group about every other week. Of the support given by TNT, she said, “They give you some pointers — like stand taller — especially the first few weeks of training. They talk with you about your stride, your shoes, your socks, keeping hydrated, and keeping hydrated during longer runs without aid stations.
“They even have walk trainers,” she continued. “The first time [the TNT coach] kept reminding me I need to concentrate on my posture.”
“Sometimes some of us will go to Columbus and train with them,” said Merryman, “but most of us do our training up here. It makes a world of difference to have somebody out there with you. It makes the time go by, and the miles.”
Vales’ training partner is her husband, Stephen, who is the sixth member of the team and who will be walking the half marathon with her.
“Training takes a lot of time and effort,” said Vales. “My husband and I have done a lot on our own. He works odd hours, so we just kind of paired up.
“My husband ran cross country in high school,” she continued. “He’s built more like a runner. He pushes me to keep a quicker pace. He motivates me.”
Vales’ two children, ages 10 and 7, sometimes walk with her and her husband.
“All four of us walked the turkey festival 5K together, so that was neat,” she said. “Martha and Samantha are doing the full marathon, so their training is a little different. They do more than what we do.”
“I’ve kind of had to do my own thing because I’m busy with my kids,” said Zimmer, who is also walking the half marathon. “I am a pretty busy mom, so I usually do my training early in the morning, usually six to seven miles at a time.”
Zimmer said occasionally she will go to the Kokosing Gap Trail, but does most of her training on the country roads of eastern Knox County.
“Columbus is relatively flat compared to here,” she said. “Walking up and down the hills, it’s a lot harder to do here.”
As members of Team in Training, each participant has to raise $1,700 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Fundraisers organized by the members include a wine tasting, a TV raffle, a spaghetti dinner and a volleyball tournament, among others. Although they said the economy has had an effect on their fundraising efforts, each has reached or neared their goal.
“I have enjoyed the fundraising,” said Vales. “I work with the Danville Fire Department on the turkey festival, I work with the auction, so fundraising is more in my comfort zone that some of the others. People are willing to offer any type of support; sometimes it’s a smaller amount, sometimes they’re more generous. It’s very fulfilling.”
“This has really stretched me,” said Zimmer. “It’s not the training; I know I can do the walking. What’s really stretched me is my ability to raise money. I am just so shocked. People really love to have fun, and if you plan things like that, they will come.
“The economy has had an effect,” she continued. “People are hanging on to their money a little tighter, but it’s really given me a sense of satisfaction.”
“It’s been a little more challenging this year with the current economic state,” agreed Merryman. “It makes you have to be a little more creative. You have to come up with fundraising events to make it benefit as many people as possible.
“It’s very rewarding doing the fundraising, to know you are doing something for people who are less fortunate than we are,” she said. “People have been very receptive. People do want to help.”
In addition to the tangible benefits of the training and the fundraising, team members have also grown as individuals, forging and strengthening relationships.
“It’s been life changing for me,” said Merryman. “Before, I really did not have any connection with blood disorders. Since then, I’ve made several friends who are affected. It really brings it full circle. You do the work and then you meet the people you benefit.”
Bumpus is facing an empty nest since her children are now in college.
“Part of doing this is to distract me from dealing with new things,” she said. “I am 51 years old. Just how many other 50-year-old women are out running on a weekend? I walked a half marathon with an 88-year-old man. He was so encouraging. I thought, ‘If he can do it, I can do it.’ That has been one of my favorite things, the people I meet.”
“I started last August losing weight,” said Vales. “I was out of shape. It’s been a long journey for me over the last year. To me, just completing the half marathon is good enough for me. My husband is doing it solely to support me.
“Samantha pointed out that yes, you have the goal of doing [the half marathon], of finishing, but you also have the fundraising goal. So you also feel a sense of satisfaction once you get there and finish it. The thing I’ve learned is that you can do anything that you put your mind to. In the beginning, it seems like a lot — the fundraising, the training. It’s overwhelming. You think ‘how am I going to do it? How am I going to fit it into my schedule?’ But if you put your mind to it, you can do anything.”
“It really blesses me to know I can do this,” said Zimmer, referring to raising funds for research. “I can’t do anything for my father-in-law personally; he lives out of town. So many times when someone is sick with cancer, you feel powerless. But now I don’t feel powerless.”