Women running historic Athens marathon to raise $50,000

MCTNovember 3, 2007 

— Pheidippides died after running about 24 miles from Marathon, Greece, to Athens in 490 B.C.

On Nov. 4, a field of about 4,000 runners and walkers will commemorate the Athenian messenger in the Athens Marathon. Somewhere in that crowd will be Key Biscayne, Fla.'s Kathy Lubbers and Jeanne Cadwallader.

They'll be walking the 26.2 miles, working their muscles and pushing themselves to exhaustion while they help raise, hopefully, $50,000 for the Arthritis Foundation.

It's a personal cause for Lubbers, 44, diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 25. "I woke up one morning and I could not lift the sheets," she says. "It was so painful I thought I'd need a wheelchair the rest of my life."

Fortunately, medication has helped. "I can't play tennis ... . I haven't practiced golf in a long time; my wrist doesn't swing. I can't do some of the yoga poses. But I can wash my hair."

She can also walk, which she does, miles at a time, around Key Biscayne several days a week with Cadwallader, her neighbor for about seven years and counting.

"We were doing it for exercise," says Cadwallader, 46, who works with independent cable companies. "One day she said, `Hey, you want to do an arthritis walk?' I said, `Yes, but not Orlando in the middle of summer.'"

Lubbers, president of Gingrich Communications, thought about a location. Which place would be interesting enough that her girlfriends would go? She picked Greece, and now she has four people to keep her company and help raise money. "We're all excited. My sister in Atlanta, her girlfriend and my friend from the second grade in New York - all East Coast women."

And all getting e-coaching from 1972 Olympian Jeff Galloway, who has been standing by to advise those raising funds for the Arthritis Foundation. He has completed the Athens Marathon about 10 times in weather usually in the 60s to low 70s and dry. (Remember the recent fires?)

"You start in the small town of Marathon, Greece," he says by phone. "You run around the tomb where soldiers were buried after the Battle of Marathon ... . You go through areas of Greece along the coast, into the foothills, past some vineyards that were in existence when Pheidippides ran, and across the hill. There's only one hill. The bad news: It's 13 miles long. But once you reach the top you can coast down if you've got something left."

That's why he advises athletes to conserve energy as they head for the finish line inside Olympic Stadium.

"Some of us have never done anything athletic in our lives," Lubbers says. "I might have done a 5K when I was a kid."

Today, that 5K would be a warm-up. With plenty of miles on their sneakers, Lubbers and Cadwallader are ready for Greece. Cadwallader once ran 17.5 miles "by myself and I ended up in the rain." Lubbers' husband, Paul, a coaching education director for the USTA association, "scoffs that he could finish the marathon in the time it takes us to do six miles."

But he also makes sure they're not walking on empty. "My diet? Just don't ask my weight," Cadwallader pleads. "Kathy's husband is an incredible cook," whipping up pasta with chicken and pasta with shrimp, fuel for those long walks.

"I'm learning so much," Cadwallader says. "It just feels good. Physically, mentally, spiritually it's done a lot for me ... . Maybe I should start jogging."

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© 2007, The Miami Herald.

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