Running's never been my thing. Chubby and slow as a kid, I was perpetually last to round the softball bases, to huff and puff through the 100-yard dash, to waddle back inside after recess. Right now, adult Jenni is still chubby and even slower than that pigtail-sporting grade-schooler was, but in a few short months this pokey little puppy will be lacing up her size-11 Nikes to run the Chicago Half-Marathon. Crazy, right? Maybebut I've got a few fabulous reasons for embarking on this insanity.
One, I don't have to go it alone. The folks at Team to End AIDS ( T2EA ) are helping me and tons of other runners elevate their level of athleticism from wannabe to warrior. They call themselves coaches, but they could just as well be labeled wizards: Through education and inspiration and a whole bunch of tough love, they transform athletes of all shapes and abilities and empower them to do amazing, astounding incredible things, like run half-marathons, full marathons and triathlons for the first time. With their guidance, couch potatoes like me turn into runnerssomething just a few short months ago I would have thought impossible. Slow, yes, but with their assistance, sluggish newbies get faster every dayand experienced athletes become even more awesome.
Two, by training under the capable and caring tutelage of T2EA, I'm helping to improve more lives than just my own. T2EA is part of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago ( AFC ) ; the athletes who benefit from the training give back by raising money to fund their noble mission of improving the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS. Since 1985, AFC has been a champion in the fight, working with community organizations to develop and improve services; fund and coordinate prevention, care and advocacy projects; and champion effective, compassionate HIV/AIDS policy. It's vital work; every nine and a half minutes, another person in the United States is infected with HIV. At this moment, 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with the disease. Every stride I take as a T2EA athleteand every dollar my teammates and I raisegets us one step closer to the day when we find a cure and HIV/AIDS is gone for good.
I could really use your help in crossing the finish line. If you'd like to give me a push and at the same time help the T2EA team in the struggle to conquer HIV/AIDS, there's a few easy ways you can lend a hand:
Give to my Chicago Half-Marathon fundraiser. I'd be beyond thrilled to get any kind of contribution. Donations both big and small make a huge difference. You can go to my T2EA page at http://afc.aidschicago.org/netcommunity/RunJenniRun.
Come to my birthday party/T2EA fundraiser/karaoke fest/'80s-themed extravaganza at The Call ( at Clark Street and Bryn Mawr Avenue ) on Thursday, June 21. There'll be drink specials, raffle prizes and lots of off-key singing. See "Spinner's ( Halfway to Her ) 80s Karaoke Party" on Facebook.
Volunteer for T2EA. With the economy being rough and tumble as it is, most of us have more time than money these days. Happily, time is something the folks at T2EA would be happy for you to giveif you can spare a few hours to corral runners during a training run, hand out water or support T2EA at any of the events leading up to the half- and full marathons, great. Learn more at www.teamtoendaids.com .
Show up to the sidelines of the Chicago Half Marathon ( www.chicagohalfmarathon.com ) on Sept. 9 and cheer me on. I'll be the slow plus-sized gal wearing a red T2EA shirtand a smile.
Jenni Spinner is a business writer and beginner athlete.