Going the distance for fund-raiser run

Marathon: A `sit- behind-the-desk type' and others are headed to Alaska on behalf of the Arthritis Foundation.

July 29, 2002|By Brendan Kearney | Brendan Kearney,SUN STAFF

Dave Huber, a lifelong resident of Baltimore County, has the look of a regular on the Northern Central Railroad Trail in Cockeysville, another middle-aged man fighting for svelteness.

But unlike many of the bicyclists, runners and walkers who frequent the one-time railroad right-of-way, Huber, 47, has never been an exercise enthusiast. In fact, until May, he hadn't run regularly since he was a teen-ager.

Now, thanks to some inner resolve and outside prompting from the Joints in Motion program, a fund-raising branch of the Arthritis Foundation, Huber is training for a marathon. He expects to cover a 26.2-mile course in and around Anchorage, Alaska, on Aug. 18.

"I am and was a sit-behind-the-desk type of person that didn't get much exercise," said Huber, a Baldwin resident who runs a construction company. "I was generally drawn to arthritis because it ranges across the population."

National figures show that the disease, characterized by inflammation of the joints, afflicts an estimated 43 million Americans, 289,000 of them children, said Kelly Francisco, the Joints in Motion coordinator for Maryland. In an effort to combat these statistics, the group has enlisted 1,875 runners and walkers nationwide to raise money by running in marathons this year.

The Arthritis Foundation is among several nonprofit groups -- including the American Diabetes Foundation and the Leukemia Society of America -- that use this fund-raising strategy.

Huber and his two fellow Alaska marathoners must raise at least $4,500, 40 percent of which goes toward travel costs, training accessories and the race entry fee. The rest goes to arthritis research and treatment at the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland. Joints in Motion raised $118,000 to fight arthritis last year, sending runners, walkers and hikers to events from Honolulu to Baltimore to Dublin, Ireland.

"My interest was in doing something for someone else, but I got something for myself, too," joked Huber, alluding to his all-expenses-paid trip to a wilderness course in the northern latitudes. He has raised $10,250 from friends and local corporations.

In return for their fund-raising efforts, the participants receive individual training advice from a "mentor," a veteran marathoner who volunteers with the program. In the case of Huber, that person is Ellen Quinn, a senior manager at PHH Arval in Hunt Valley.

Quinn, 40, has run two marathons in Dublin with the Joints in Motion program and is training for the New York Marathon on Nov. 3.

She got into the charity marathon business after her father's battle with a terminal illness convinced her that running for those who couldn't was an appealing proposition.

"I just listened and thought, `Where can I sign up?'" said Quinn. "I never thought two years ago that I'd be involved in something like this."

On this late afternoon, Quinn has brought cold drinks and will run alongside her charge, inspiring him to grit out another midweek run on the trail.

"You have a much better chance of achieving [with a mentor]. Having that positive reinforcement is helpful, especially in the longer distances," said Huber, clearly grateful for a training companion.

But if either person is ever short on motivation, they must only remember the Alaska team's "honoree," Maureen Puppa, 14, a Elkridge Middle School pupil who has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

"It just gives you a goal," said Holly Richard, 26, a member of the team training for Alaska. "When you think of the Arthritis Foundation, it's sort of abstract. But when you have one person, it puts life in perspective."

Richard, a marketing specialist in Owings Mills who played volleyball in college, is also running for her grandmother and great-grandmother, both arthritis patients.

Huber says that despite the difficult training regimen -- he will put in runs of 16, 18 and 20 miles to prepare for the marathon -- and the time spent raising money, the experience has taught him a lot about himself, all for a good cause.

"I'm the clear demonstration that if someone as old and out of shape as I am [can run a marathon], anyone can do it," said Huber.

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