Sunny-Side Up!

by Mary Helen Darah

I used to call myself a runner, which frankly was a bit of a stretch. Historically, I would put on Janet Jackson, manage to move in a forward direction for three songs, then turn around for home. My running was like my mom’s meatloaf. It wasn’t pretty but it got the job done. I never thought of hitting the pavement again in this lifetime until spending time with the highly motivational Maggie Mahoney and her running mates Sami Clarke, and Lisa Sedlak. The three friends are heading to New York this November to run in the New York City Marathon, all 26.2 miles of it. 

L-R: Maggie Mahoney, Sami Clarke and Lisa Sedlak prepare for the upcoming New York City Marathon.

A while back Maggie Mahoney’s friend and head of the nonprofit RallyCap Sports, Luke Sims, reached out to her and asked if she had any interest in the charity bibs he had for the opportunity to run in the New York City Marathon. “I figured it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and told him let’s run with it—literally. RallyCap Sports is a nonprofit that provides recreational sports specifically designed for children and young adults with special needs,” said Mahoney. “I have never been a runner. I couldn’t run five miles a year ago but this will be a tremendous experience for a great cause. Now, I have done two half marathons, and this will be my first full marathon.” 

The group started training with Dave’s Running Shop. “Dave’s has a full marathon program that we have been following,” she stated. “I really can’t believe the event is around the corner. I am excited to be a part of it. It really hasn’t hit me yet. Some people wait a long time to get a lottery ticket or a charity bib for a chance to run. The fact that it was handed to me is amazing. We told Luke we wanted to be part of the race and the fundraising needed for the charity bibs. I surpassed my goal, thanks to the tremendous support of family, friends and the community.”

Mahoney’s dad, Neal, and brother Matt will be cheering her on from the sidelines in New York along with a couple of friends. “It is going to be very emotional,” she said. “It has been one of the most challenging things I have ever put my mind to. You hit various milestones throughout the training. I finished 20 miles (which is the mileage we train to) for the first time, and I was sobbing. I will hit 26.2 for the first time on race day. I highly recommend doing something challenging. You learn so much about yourself. It is such a cliche, but so true … if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.” 

Mahoney’s friend Lisa Sedlak is part of the running threesome. “Maggie and I have a business relationship together,” stated Sedlak. “We were at lunch one time and I told her that I ran the Glass City Marathon. At that time she said that she couldn’t run a mile. This year she ran a half marathon.”

Sedlak recalled, “Maggie called me when she got the bib opportunities for New York. That’s how it all began. We had run once or twice together but never trained. It was just for fun. Now we train together. As a group, we do a long run through a Dave’s Running Shop program on Saturdays. I run three to four times a week outside of the long run we do together.” She added, “My schedule is hectic. I will be traveling for 10 days before the marathon with a wedding and a work trip. It’s a little overwhelming at times, especially in addition to balancing a career and a family.”

Sedlak is thrilled to be a part of the fundraising efforts for RallyCap Sports. The three runners had to raise $2,500 each for their bib. “All the proceeds will offset the costs and equipment so the kids with special needs can play sports. That is the number one motivation. We are blessed that we are doing this for a purpose. Also, I want to set a good example for my own children. My daughter is a runner in high school. It sets the bar. It is nice to know that you can run at any age. It doesn’t matter where you finish, it is so rewarding. Only one percent of the population runs a marathon. That is how challenging a marathon is–26.2 miles is a long haul but definitely worth the effort.”

Sami Clarke was also asked by Maggie Mahoney to run the marathon. “I have never run a full marathon,” said Clarke. “I ran in the Glass City Marathon but only did the half. The New York City Marathon is a once in a lifetime opportunity, especially while helping a nonprofit.” Clarke believes the biggest challenge will be toward the end of the race. “At that point, your body is so tired. It will be tough to keep that momentum. You get tired and super hungry. I am hoping the environment and being with 33,000 runners will keep us going.”

Clarke equates training for a marathon to having a second job. “It has impacted every part of my life,” she stated. “I have given up every Saturday to commit to long runs which means going to bed on Friday at 8:30 pm. It’s been tiring but so exciting. I am lucky I get to run with two of my best friends and represent our community come November.”

This will be the 50th year of the NYC Marathon and I will be watching. I must admit, not necessarily to celebrate the race’s anniversary, but to cheer on three determined local women who are challenging us to be our best. 

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