Today I’m running for four hours as part of the Alzheimer’s Association Longest Day™ because I want to honor my parents, my sister who serves as my mother’s primary caregiver, and all the other families I’ve had the privilege of working with at the Alzheimer’s Association.
One of the smartest things I did for myself and my family was become an Association employee. I have a wonderfully supportive husband and daughter, but still there were times when dealing with mother’s and father’s illnesses that I felt very alone. I didn’t know of many 30-somethings whose parents had forms of dementia. Fortunately, I found an amazing community at the Alzheimer’s Association. This organization has taught me to make lemonade out of lemons, and I will be forever grateful.
I’m starting my run in Hopkinton, Mass., and running (more like wogging – walking and jogging) along the Boston Marathon course from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.
You may ask why someone would want to run a solo marathon. (Quite frankly, right now, I’m asking myself that same question!) Well, I wanted to participate in an activity that shows my commitment to going the distance in the fight against Alzheimer’s. It’s not going to be easy to beat this disease. It’s going to take a lot of minds, money and mobilization to make it happen. But, I have no doubt that, together, we can do it.
So, right now I’m going it alone, but I am hoping that next year, during the longest day of the year, there will be others out there right alongside me, going the distance to beat Alzheimer’s.
Wish me luck!
Irene Hammer-McLaughlin is a major gifts officer with the Alzheimer’s Association. She enjoys running with her husband Mike and biking with her 12-year-old Sarah. She has completed two Ironman events and several marathons. She is participating in the Alzheimer’s Association Longest Day™, a sunrise-to-sunset relay supporting those affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
Post Run Update
Okay, four hours and shower later, I can reflect on my 22 mile run. No, it wasn’t a full marathon, but you know what? Attempting to run a marathon overweight and untrained is an awful lot like having to be an Alzheimer’s caregiver. No one can tell you what it’s going to be like for you. You have to experience it for yourself. Inevitably, there will be some unexpected obstacles to deal with. (Perhaps not the dead skunk or the Mack truck, but there’s probably a metaphorical equivalent.) And, sometimes, even when you make a solid plan, things can go a little awry (like the fact that my water support person underestimated my speed, so I without water for 8 miles). Nevertheless, you find the humor, you get through it, and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
In all seriousness, I’m glad I chose to participate in this challenging effort. Alzheimer’s is tough, and it’s going to take a lot of tough people to eliminate it. I’m honored that I can play a small part, and I hope that after today others will take up the baton, as well.