Vol. 20, No. 13

April 5, 2001

Christine Cook walks to support leukemia research

Jim Fisher helps Christine Cook train for the Country Music Marathon in Nashville, where she will help raise money to fight leukemia. Photo by Kathy Flickinger

When Christine Cook, chemical engineering, begins her 26.2-mile trek in the Country Music Marathon in Nashville on April 28, she will be among some 30,000 participants nationwide who put their best feet forward each year in a worthy cause.

Whether they are running, walking, cycling or coaching, volunteers like Cook, assistant to the chairperson in chemical engineering, and Jim Fischer, head coach of the UD men's cross country and track and field programs, are helping to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team-In-Training program.

The society is a not-for-profit voluntary health organization working to find a cure for leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma and Hodgkin's disease, while helping to improve the quality of life for patients and their families.

The Team-In-Training program provides expert training and support for marathoners in return for a commitment to raise money to help the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society find a cure for blood-related cancers.

Leukemia is the number one killing disease of children under 15, and lymphoma is the leading killer of men and women under 35.

Cook, who will compete in the marathon as a runner, is like many Team-In-Training volunteers whose lives have been touched in some way by one of these deadly diseases.

"After attending the funeral of a close family friend who died from leukemia last year, I was searching for a way to honor her memory," Cook said. "Undertaking a challenge like this, while raising money for cancer research, is something I think she would appreciate."

Helping amateurs like Cook meet fundraising goals while avoiding the serious injuries that sometimes accompany marathon competition is the job of training professionals like Fischer, now in his 19th year of coaching at UD.

A former runner with about 20 marathons to his credit, Fischer said he pretty much retired from competitive running in the early 1990s, but continues to be involved in the sport through his participation in Team-In-Training activities, such as serving as state of Delaware running coach for the past five years.

"For the past 17 years, I have been conducting a weekly interval training session that was originally set up for runners having no formal training, to help them improve their performances in road races," Fischer said. "Someone mentioned this to the Team-In-Training coordinator, who then contacted me. I have been an adviser ever since."

While there are many factors involved in such training, including fighting fatigue and meeting aerobic (oxygen) requirements, Fischer said the key to marathon training is spending time on your legs.

"We talk about race preparation and the race itself, making sure the entrants understand that their first goal for their first marathon is to finish and, if possible, to enjoy it," Fischer said. "A projected time goal may be part of the process, but it is way in the background."

For Cook, who said she hopes to cross the finish line with a decent time, the principal aim is to complete the marathon and raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. To date, she has $5,100 in pledges.

When she does go to Nashville, it will be with husband and UD alumnus, Skip Cook CHEP '94M, who also serves as her current training partner.

"We are not so much trying to compete as to complete," she said. "The combination of training and fundraising is a time consuming activity, but we both feel good about doing this."

Although finding new practice routes and coordinating workouts with the time consuming demands of raising two children presents a challenge, Cook said the ultimate goal of finding a cure is certainly worth the effort.

"This is such a huge, important cause," Cook said. "When it's cold and snowy outside and you are looking for motivation, you only need to remember why you are doing this."

Fischer noted that having been personally touched by the people from whom they are volunteering may serve as a powerful motivator and reward for Team-In-Training athletes and coaches.

"The completion of a marathon is an extremely emotional thing," Fischer said. "Now, pile on top of that the feeling of completing the race while being tied emotionally to someone who is sick and trying to raise funds to help eradicate the diseases–that's a pretty big payoff for me."

For information, call 831-8730 or send e-mail to [cecook@ udel.edu]. If you would like to make a contribution contact the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society at 1-800-220-1617, or send mail to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Community Service Building, 100 West 10th St., Suite 209, Wilmington, DE 19801.

–Jerry Rhodes