Just after 5 a.m. on November 6th, while most of New York City was still in bed, 100 members of team Athletes to End Alzheimer’s® (ATEA) were making their last-minute preparations en route to join their fellow teammates, ready to take on the streets of all five boroughs for the 2016 TCS NYC Marathon. Excitement and anxiety were palpable in the air as they gathered for the last time before joining 50,000 fellow runners in Staten Island to start what is often called “New York City’s largest block party.” Before the end of this beautiful fall day, they would cross the finish line in Central Park, raise over $400,000 to support CaringKind’s programs and services, and become permanent members of CaringKind’s ATEA community.
The TCS NYC Marathon is one of the premier marathons in the world, with this year’s race breaking records for the largest number of marathon finishers. For some of the ATEA teammates, this would be an opportunity to hit a personal record on a well-known and beloved course, while for others this would be their chance to join that most coveted club: marathon finishers. Traveling from as far as the Netherlands, and as close as down the block from the Central Park finish line, all team members ran with a common motivation. They wanted to raise their voices and their running feet for the Alzheimer’s cause and in honor of the unique sacrifices made by caregivers daily.
When our athletes donned our signature orange singlets and selected to run on behalf of CaringKind, they did so because they embraced our mission and knew that being an Athlete to End Alzheimer’s went far beyond any one race on any one day. Lacing up their sneakers to start the race, they may have been transported to the first time they heard that someone they cared about had been diagnosed with dementia, cognizant of the journey ahead.
Staring over the vast expanse of the Verrazano Bridge at the start in Staten Island, the runners could have recalled how far and wide the effect of that diagnosis spread across their family. Greeting the diverse faces of the cheering onlookers in Brooklyn, they may have relived the importance of being supported throughout the Alzheimer’s journey by their friends, family, and organizations like CaringKind, which, for over 30 years, has worked tirelessly as the expert of dementia caregiving for families in need.
When the runners caught a breath just past the halfway point in Queens, they could acknowledge that this race to end Alzheimer’s disease is also still ongoing. But just like the nutrition coursing through their bodies to refuel them and keep them moving forward, in the absence of a prevention or treatment, good care is the best medicine for this devastating disease. Their fundraising efforts helped to provide more access to good care for themselves and fellow New Yorkers who turn to CaringKind every day. Briefly popping into the Bronx to complete the tour of all five boroughs, the ATEA marathoners could acknowledge that the journey could look different for every family and every caregiver affected by this disease, but the need to be supported is universal.
And when the runners finally crossed the finish line in Manhattan, they did so knowing that they were really just starting their “leg” in the effort to destigmatize this disease and provide support to everyone who has been, is, or will be touched by a dementia diagnosis. Because, that is what it really means to be an Athlete to End Alzheimer’s.
Interested in participating in the TCS NYC Marathon or another ATEA event in 2017? Visit caringkindnyc.org/athletes.