Monday, April 8, 2013

Mission Monday:15,000 Miles Later & Still Running for a Cure

Chris Henkel is a twelve time TNT alumni who trains and raises money in memory of his wife.
Running more than twenty minutes made my lungs hurt and my shins ache. So I signed up for a marathon.

I joined Team in Training in honor of Stephanie Henkel, my wife and the mother of our two young children. Stephanie was diagnosed with Lymphoma in late 2005. While only 28 years of age at the time, she was an amazing and selfless woman who inspired those she encountered. She also served as an Honored Hero for the TEAM. Shortly after her diagnosis a friend of mine at work attended an information meeting on my behalf and shared information about the TNT program. He was a runner, I was not. Nonetheless, I joined TNT in January of 2006 as an attempt to make a difference in Stephanie’s bout with Lymphoma. Learning to run was both exhilarating and painful.

Any distance beyond 3 miles was a challenge unless I ran it at a snail’s pace. Furthermore, my ego was compromised as I watched people of all ages and sizes run three times the distance with a third of the effort. Yet I continued to wake up at a god-awful hour to lace up my running shoes and do it again, week after week, and month after month. Heck if Stephanie could endure numerous rounds of chemotherapy and months in the hospital, I had no room to complain about my aching legs.
In September 2006, Stephanie’s battle came to an end as she joined the Lord in Heaven. Her legacy lives on in me, our children, her family, and the people who had the pleasure of getting to know her.
Through the generosity of many honoring Stephanie, I had the privilege to help raise $40,000 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through participation in twelve Team in Training events over the last seven years. I am passionate about the Team because I believe in the Society’s mission and what they do for families like mine – such as research, patient and doctor education, financial assistance, and support groups. The efforts of participants, mentors, coaches, and alumni made an impact on my family and they still do today. The optimistic camaraderie and goal-oriented structure found in the TNT program was exactly what my life and my family needed during the difficult times. Quite simply, the sacrifices and efforts of great people inspire and encourage so I am honored to give back.

Seven years, five Boston Qualifiers, and some 15,000 miles later I am still on the road raising funds and awareness for the cause. Keeping it in the family, I am now married to a fellow TNT alumni, as is my father, and my twin sister is a coach. Go TEAM!

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