The Chicago Marathon is well-known as the pinnacle of achievement for elite athletes the world over. And then there's us. Our personal stories have never been synonymous with athleticism (despite Aaron's abnormally rotund biceps) or the discipline of running (despite Madison's ability to sprint at compelling speeds without spilling a drop of his boss's coffee), but that has all changed over the last several months.
In March of this year, a dear friend had to say goodbye to his mother, Nancy "Pants" Amato, after a nine-year battle against pancreatic cancer. Over the few years that we have been fortunate to call the Amato family friends, we have gained priceless wisdom about life and perseverance in the face of insurmountable odds. We experienced firsthand the grace and love that the family poured out to others, even in the midst of their own suffering. They had even gone so far as to form a grassroots charity -- Pants Off Racing -- to assist families struggling under the weight of the disease. Nancy's selflessness, courage, and breathtaking tenacity for life was crystallized beautifully on March 14th when we gathered to say goodbye to her warrior spirit. And boy did we gather. Hundreds packed into the church that day to honor the one who had inspired us all. Between hugs and tears and bittersweet smiles, the two of us came to a conclusion separately, but simultaneously. We wanted to place ourselves on the line in some way, to do something tangible to thank Nancy and the Amatos for all that they had taught us over the last few years.
Given that triathlons, marathons, and Ironman races have played such a huge part in the Amato's lives and form the foundation of Pants Off Racing and its crazy community of supporters -- the Meerkats -- it seemed only right for us to try and suffer through one ourselves. Thus, our plan was hitched: we would train for and run the Chicago Marathon, both of us novices and general haters of running. I mean really. We get winded just watching the opening to Chariots of Fire.
A few months into our training and we've hit quite a few walls -- the commitment, the strain, summoning the will power to push past mile markers, the simultaneous lack of feeling and excruciating soreness in our lower halves the day after a long run -- and we've broken past each one keeping our goal in mind: to honor Nancy's legacy and bring the funds and awareness necessary to create a real breakthrough in the fight against pancreatic cancer.
A more recent wall came a few weeks ago when Madison's grandma was diagnosed with liver, lung, and brain cancer. She passed away peacefully on August 26th, just a week after Madison ran his first half marathon distance in training. If ever we lacked empathy for those who suffer from this disease, 2015 has expanded our hearts to feel its effects deeply.
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer-related deaths and is projected to be the second by 2020. This race is us trying to do something about that, but in order to finish strong, we need your support -- emotionally and financially.
Please consider running along side us in spirit by sponsoring our run to benefit Project Purple and Pants Off Racing. Every little bit helps. Feel free to check back on this site as we continue to train towards the 26.2 miles in October -- we'll be doing our best to update you all on the miles logged and the lessons learned.
Until then, be well, stay strong, and love on!
Aaron & Madison - TEAM MEERKAT