It started off as a kind of wacky idea, one of those “I’ve always wanted to do this” larks that we’re all prone to at different points of our lives.
Ashely Clark wanted to run a marathon, an arduous 26.2-mile test of human endurance. Her mother thought she was crazy.
“That’s like running to Whiteville and back,” she told her daughter
But Clark, a Bladenboro native who now resides in Raleigh, wasn’t daunted by the arduous task. That’s largely because the pain and exhaustion she’ll face running a marathon is nothing compared to what the people she is running for endure everyday.
When Clark runs the 2007 Walt Disney World Marathon in January, she’ll be doing so for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The organization helps raise money for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma research. One of its fundraising initiatives is providing aspiring marathon runners with free training and placement in a race. In return, the runner raises money for the Society.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but it’s also a great cause,” Clark said. “The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society really tries to make a difference.”
Making her marathon challenge more than just a quest for personal accomplishment was an easy decision for Clark. This past spring, her friend, Trevor Cundiff, was diagnosed with stage four lymphoma. Eighty percent of the marrow in his bones is cancerous, and he’s had to months of debilitating chemotherapy treatment.
“It just made sense to do it this way,” Clark said. “Almost everyone has been affected by cancer. It’s a terrible disease. This way I felt like I could do my part.”
Clark’s goal is to raise $3,500. According to her training web page, she’s over halfway there, collecting about $1,800.
But in her marathon training, she still has a ways to go.
Clark has been training with several other aspiring marathon runners in Raleigh since August. She’s able to tackle 10 miles in her training runs, something she would have never thought possible a year ago.
“I have never been much of a runner,” Clark said. “I would do it just to do something, to stay active.”
Nowadays, she barely blinks at a four-mile run. Heading out for a long run is often viewed as mind-settling and fun, especially when she’s training with her Leukemia and Lymphoma Society “Team in Training” teammates. She even recently competed in her first road race, running in the Chevy to the Levee 5k in Lumberton last Saturday.
But Clark isn’t exactly cocky about her early training accomplishments. Increased mileage awaits in the coming months leading up to the marathon. And according to her online diary of her training, the Chevy to the Levee race taught her a valuable lesson.
“I exerted myself too much that first mile and was exhausted for the rest of the race,” she said in her diary. “There's no way I could do 26 miles at that pace! So, that's my new thing to work on.”
There’s still a couple of months before Clark heads to Florida for the marathon on Jan. In that time, she’s not only hitting the pavement to get her body ready for the endeavor, she’s also working every contact she has -- co-workers at her marketing job in Raleigh, old friends and family here in Bladen County — in the continuing effort to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
“We’ve gotten a really good response,” Clark said. “I e-mail everyone. And I’ve gotten responses from people I didn’t really know before I started doing this. It’s been great.”
To learn how to contribute to Clark’s charitable fund, visit www.ashely.pledgepage.org or call 648-2770.