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Once upon a time, I was a police officer. I went to the Police Training Institute at the University of Illinois in 1987. My classmates and I stayed in Bromley Hall, and every morning at 5 a.m. we assembled for calisthenics in the armory. Then we headed out to the streets of Champaign-Urbana for a 5-mile run. I hated running, but it became such a part of my routine that I continued it even after the academy.
One day, one of my fellow police officers invited me to run a 5-kilometer race with him. Something resonated with me and that experience. There was a kind of excitement associated with running the race. Crowds lined the course and cheered. Adrenaline and endorphins pumped through my veins. The feeling I had of challenging myself athletically and crossing a finish line and receiving a medal was very satisfying indeed. It felt as though I had accomplished something that was both healthy and communal.
Runners tend to be an affable, sociable fraternity of sorts who still try to compete and win, even as they help you try to do your personal best. Races tend to have crowds and music and food and drinks, and you even get a T-shirt for participating. It’s fun and exhilarating and deeply rewarding. I began to look for other races to run.
At about the same time, I met a guy named John Davis in a small Christian community called a “Cursillo Group Reunion.” The group was through my parish, St. Elizabeth Seton in Naperville. John had a heart attack in his 60s, and his doctor told him he had better start exercising, or he was going to die. After age 65, John completed over 20 marathons, including the Abbott World Marathon Majors, a series consisting of six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world. He became my inspiration. In time, as I built up my endurance, I looked for longer races. First a 10-K, then a 10-miler, then a half-marathon, then a 40-K and finally a marathon. Since then, I’ve run 14 marathons.
Now you need to know something about myself. In all humility, I’m not a very good runner. I will never threaten any world records. In fact, when I ran the Chicago Marathon in 1994, a 60-year-old Franciscan nun passed me! I was 28 at the time. I found out who she was because a golf cart was following her with a film crew from PBS, and the cart had a sign that said, “Run, Sister, Run!”
For me, it takes about four-and-a-half hours to run a marathon. I had to find something to do during those hours to pass the time. It dawned on me that I could pray the rosary as I ran by counting the Hail Marys on my fingers. I started telling people that I did that, and soon enough, people asked me to pray for their intentions as I ran. For one marathon, I had 48 different prayer requests, and I prayed for all of them.
The point of telling you all of this is to explain why I’m doing what I’m doing next. I’ve been accepted as a runner for this year’s Boston Marathon, to be run on Columbus Day, Oct. 11, 2021. There are only two ways to get in as a runner for Boston. One way is to qualify by running a fast pace. By now you can probably guess that I’m too slow to ever qualify. The other way is to run as a “charity runner” for a Boston Athletic Association approved charity.
This fall, I will be running for the American Liver Foundation in an attempt to raise money for the treatment and cure of liver disease, and I’m asking you for two things. First, if you’re able, I’m asking you to make a small donation. By making a donation on my behalf, you will be helping the American Liver Foundation provide critical funding for medical research, public education and patient support services, and every penny helps.
Second, and more importantly, I’m asking you to send me your prayer intentions. I will absolutely pray for you as I run. Please send your prayer intentions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you feel called to support this charity, you can find out more information at my personal fundraising page: liverlifechallenge.org/boston/support/#deaconvic.