Friday, April 20, 2012

Running for their lives: How a Brookhaven couple is using running to improve their lives and the lives of those fighting blood cancer


Chris and Jen with their nephew and Honored Hero, Chase.
By this time of year, most New Year’s Resolutions have probably already been forgotten about. This is not the case for Brookhaven resident Jen Lesshafft. She is determined to follow through with her resolution and run at least one 5k a month.  She’s showing no signs of slowing down.  In fact, she’s gearing up for one of her most meaningful races to date –The 7th Annual Big Peach 5K Run/Walk to benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Her husband, Chris, has been running for a few years and she was getting tired just waiting for him at the finish line. As a way to stay fit and spend more time with her husband, Jen decided she was going to start running, too.

“I’ve played sports my whole life,” said Jen. “But I never really got into running.  I figured this could be a great way for me to stay healthy, all while spending time with my husband doing something he really enjoys.”


Chris and Jen at the Zoo Run Run 5K in Nashville
Chris and Jen set their resolutions. But that wasn’t enough for them. Not only are they shooting for one 5k a month, they also set a long-term goal to run at least one 5k in every state.  So far, they’ve completed races in Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina. They’ll be repeating Georgia on May 5 when they run the Big Peach 5k.

“I think I’m most excited about this race,” Jen said while talking about the Big Peach 5k. “We’ve done some really cool races, like through the Nashville Zoo and along the beach in North Carolina, but knowing that the Big Peach 5k benefits such an amazing organization like The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, I can’t help but be excited!”

Jen and Chris have had a personal mission connection to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society since September 2008 when their nephew, Chase, was diagnosed with Pre-B Cell lymphocytic leukemia when he was only 18 months old. 

“I'm not a doctor but I want to do my part to help eliminate cancer. Whether it’s running a 5k or donating my time and resources, I’m going to do it,” Jen said. “Seeing what Chase has gone through pretty much his whole life is enough motivation for me to give back and help any way that I can.”

Jen and Chris have been training for the Big Peach 5k by running through their hilly Brookhaven neighborhood. Starting and finishing in Brookhaven, they have mapped out a 3.1 mile course that takes them all throughout neighborhood. Although the course can prove challenging to a new runner, Jen keeps pushing through.

“Running the entire course can be tough,” Jen admitted. “I just think of Chase and how strong he’s had to be the past 3 ½ years. No child, or person for that matter, should ever have to go through that. It gives me the strength I need to keep going.”

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society created a program that makes it easy for people like Jen and Chris who want to run for a good cause. Team In Training is an endurance sports training program that benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. As an official Team In Training event, the Big Peach 5k offers participants the opportunity to give back, all while running a fun, 5k. To learn more about the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program, please visit the Team in Training website, www.teamintraining.org/ga.
The 7th Annual Big Peach 5K Run/Walk to benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society takes place May 5th (Cinco de Mayo) at 8:00pm. Registration is now open. Participants can register on-line or by visiting any of the Metro Atlanta Big Peach Running Co. stores by Wednesday, May 2nd. All proceeds from the race go to benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

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