University Helps GWCI Along the Road to a Cancer Cure

Braving morning temperatures below 40 degrees and a freak blast of winter weather the day before, a team of 61 George Washington University alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends joined more than 21,000 others to run in the 36th Annual Marine Corps Marathon and the Marine Corps 10-kilometer race, Oct. 30, 2011.

The group, dressed in bright yellow runners jerseys as members of the second annual GW Cancer Institute (GWCI) marathon team, turned the support of friends and family, as well as hours of training and scores of blisters, into more than $25,000 for GWCI. Runners brought their own reasons for supporting the cancer institute, but most had a face, a name, and a story they could attach to GWCI’s efforts to increase support for survivorship initiatives, provide patient navigation for those in need of services, and to develop treatments to target cancer cells.

“This was my first marathon, and I ran in memory of my stepfather who died of throat cancer in 2004,” says Quintin Steele, who finished the 26.2-mile course in 4:39.21. The 26-year-old from Chevy Chase, Md., is a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan and is currently a student at GW. “I always wanted to run a marathon, but it just never worked out in the past. When I heard about the GWCI team, I jumped at the chance to finally do it. Not only did I complete a lifelong goal, but I got to do it with a wonderful group of people and raise money for a great cause.”

No stranger to adventurous challenges, GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Dean Marguerite “Peg” Barratt, M. Phil. ’78, decided to join the GWCI team and run the marathon after running a half marathon the previous spring. “I thought, ‘If I can run 13.1, I can train for a marathon,’ ” recalls the avid backpacker and sea kayaker. Although she began running just two years ago, she says, the Marine Corps Marathon runs right by her house, “so that was clearly the one to run.”

Through the long, tree-lined stretch of Haines Point and across the 14th Street Bridge, Barratt admits her feet were a bit tired and she got a little bored. “I thought about the people who had donated to the GW Cancer Institute in memory of those whom they had lost,” and that helped get her through those mid-race doldrums.

At mile 18 Barratt saw her son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren and her spirits perked up. “I kissed the baby and ran a bit holding my 3-year-old granddaughter’s hand,” she recalls. “Afterwards she said that someday she wants to run and have me watch — I can’t wait.”

Last year, eight runners participated in a pilot project to get the GWCI team off of the ground. This year, in addition to expanding the marathon team to nearly six times its inaugural size, GWCI launched a 10K team for community members who wanted to support the institute without having to run the full distance. On the Friday before the event, GWCI hosted a pasta party — a traditional pre-race activity when runners load up on carbohydrates and share stories of training in freezing temperatures, torrential rains, and blazing heat — as a thank you for all of the hard work and support.

“Fighting cancer is an everyday part of life for members of the GW Cancer Institute,” says Steven Patierno, Ph.D., director, GWCI, “so it is particularly gratifying when so many community members make a commitment to train for, and run, a marathon while raising money to support our innovate, groundbreaking programs. With every $5 or $10 donation from a friend or a relative, and every step along that 26.2-mile course, helps GWCI get one step closer to achieving that mission. GWCI battles cancer and cancer disparities by leveraging our strengths in basic science and translational research, clinical care, and education and outreach initiatives, but it’s clear our greatest strength is the support we receive from our local community.”

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