Taking the long road to recovery

HANSVILLE — Besides the euphoric adrenaline high after running a marathon, the 26.2-mile race lends itself to other advantages, including the chance to sight-see in countries such as Amsterdam and Ireland.

It also offers the opportunity to get in shape with friends while feeding off each others’ motivation or a step in life to do something fulfilling and rewarding.

And for some, it provides the chance to raise money for a good cause.

Sunshine Nance of Hansville has been taking advantage of all these possibilities the past three years with the Arthritis Foundation’s Joints In Motion Training Team. She is currently training to run her third marathon while raising money for the foundation.

After being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease (an auto-immune system disorder of which arthritis is a symptom) three years ago, Nance said she was looking for something “extraordinary” to do.

“I had been running a few miles a day and thought, why not?” she said. After raising $5,500 for the foundation and completing her first marathon in Dublin, Ireland, she was elated by the atmosphere created by the runners.

“The energy from all the people there, I thought, ‘I have to do this again,’” she explained, noting her race time was 4:40.

“I thought, ‘Okay, if I can do it once, I can do it again,’” she said.

Nance ran her second marathon in 2002 in Amsterdam, crossing the finish line at 4:10 and placing first in the women’s division for the Northwest Arthritis Foundation team and second overall.

Currently, she is training both herself and others for a foundation marathon this June in Kona, Hawaii.

“And if I can do it one more time, I’m going to try and qualify for Boston which requires (a time of) 3:45 for my age group (ages 35-39),” she said.

While Nance is a mentor to both runner and walker trainees in King and Snohomish counties, she is also training on this side of the water with two friends, Jim Leibold of Hansville and Allison Morrison of Kingston.

The three of them are committed to raise nearly $13,000 for the charity. Because Nance is a trainer, her fund-raising goal is only $2,800, while Leibold and Morrison are committed to $4,000 each.

Leibold is a regular outdoor athlete and was a sprinter at North Kitsap High School in the 1980s. He currently lifts weights, plays softball and skis. Before training, Leibold said he would run maybe three miles at the most. The challenge of long-distance running is one of the more intriguing aspects of the event, he added.

“I just ran 11 miles yesterday,” Leibold explained. “It’s pretty amazing that I actually did that.”

He refers the marathon to be one of those things that is on his “life list” — a list of challenges and goals he wants to complete in his lifetime.

“I want to be able to say I’ve been able to do this and I can check it off my list — and it’s in Kona,” he said.

But the race also has meaning on a personal level, as his brother has been diagnosed with a disease of which arthritis is a side effect.

Leibold has raised $2,400 of his $4,000 goal and said he has found support from his family, friends and co-workers.

“It’s helping a wonderful cause,” he said. “My goal is to run the whole thing without stopping.”

As for Morrison, a hiker and skier, her goal is to support her mother as well as get in shape for motherhood herself.

“I’m completely out of shape and I want to do something drastic to get back into shape,” she said. “The beauty of this is that my mother has osteoarthritis and has had a hip replacement and has to live with it every day, so it really hits home when doing it for a special reason.”

While her training was hampered by a recent injury to her Achilles Tendon, Morrison said she is determined to at least walk the marathon.

“I might be walking if not running,” she said. “I know I can walk but may not be able to run.”

Her fund-raising is going well also and she is just $500 short of her $4,000 goal. Morrison said she is going to attempt to train again for the 2004 Seattle Marathon after becoming a mother.

“That was my main reason for getting in shape,” she said. “I don’t want to be pregnant and completely out of shape.”

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