2014 is a special year for the North Texas Team In Training (TNT) campaign. It is celebrating 20 years of running, biking, and hiking to raise money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and it's mission to find a cure for blood cancers. Saturday, Feburary 8th TNT will kick off a year of celebrating. To honor the thousands of North Texas TNT alumni and the millions of dollars they raised in that time, we are going to count down each year of the program leading up to the TNT Alumni "Celebrate You" event on Feburary 8th.
It took some encouragement for Kathy Merani to sign up for Team In Training originally. She went to a number of meetings before actually getting registered for a team. Now, more than a decade and 20 TNT events later, she is onboard and looking ahead to what's next for TNT. She talks about how a program that started as a fitness challenged turned into so much more for her.
What is your favorite memory of TNT?
There are so many favorites, but the best was getting a big hug at the finish line from a mom whose daughter was going through treatments, thanking me for "all that we do" to help fight these cancers. I was so humbled that a mom would actually take the time out to wait for me to finish (I was the last of our group!) to thank me, when, after all, it was she who needed the hugs and support. The second best was running into the finish with other chapter participants (whom I had just met) knowing that the Team in Training participants collectively had raised $3 million at this race alone. Great feeling knowing that we can make a difference.
What brought you to TNT originally?
It was a fitness goal initially, and it took me three orientation meetings to finally sign up. The fundraising goals were daunting. I had never done any fundraising. But the organization gives you the tools, and the education of what The Leukemia Lymphoma Society does, and the rest is easy. I loved the team camaraderie, the coaches and the participants. The people are just plain awesome. This organization attracts really good people, people who want to make a difference, not only in their lives, but in the lives of others.
What about TNT makes you keep coming back?
It is addictive. Once you've completed one event, you really can't stop. The fundraising becomes easier and much more varied because you have to get creative with it; from mentoring others in how to fund raise to holding group fundraising events. It's such a great cause that really no one says no. The people is the next big reason to stay involved. I would say that now, 10 years later, over half of my friends are from those Team in Training events.
What do you want to see in the next 20 years for TNT in North Texas?
It would be awesome to see purple jerseys all over North Texas. When we do see the jerseys, the "Go Team" shout out is still such a thrill to say, and the smiles and positive responses are still there. It's really inspiring to know that there is a community of really giving people, good people, who are embarking on making their difference to a great cause. It would be great to have that high level of participants again here in North Texas.
What was the best part of your 2009 race?
I've done so many events, and had so many favorite memories, but I believe there were two races that year.
First was the Texas Man Triathlon event and meeting Dave Scott, face to face. WOW. In this particular race, it was pouring down raining and the swim was delayed and then shortened. My daughter was also participating with TNT - Austin, and she raced as well. (So Proud). She joined me at the finish, and since we both placed in our age group, we were each able to have a "moment" with the great Dave Scott. He was so friendly, genuine, and just a really nice guy.
Second was the Toyota U.S. Open which was the first "point to point" triathlon I ever did (and I believe was the first of its kind in Dallas). It was also pouring rain for that as well. But it was exciting and a challenge racing point to point. And, of course, the TNT celebration afterwards is always worth it!
How many events have you done with TNT?
I've actually lost count and would have to guess that it's upwards of 20. They were mostly all Triathlons, but then the triple crown bug hit, and I did a few cycle events and run events. I am in the process of deciding on a "flex" event right now, and it's mostly attractive to me right now because of the people I know doing it.