Tony Swartz after losing 60 pounds and completing the 2011 City Of Oaks Half Marathon in Raleigh.
By Gwen Romeo
Everyone has made a New Year’s resolution at some point. Some are geared toward self-improvement, some are about pleasing loved ones and some are for the good of others. No matter what the motivation may be, the resolutions represent a new beginning. In May 2011 Tony Swartz of Raleigh, N.C., made a resolution to raise funds in honor of his mother, who recently lost her battle with AML (acute myelogenous leukemia), and others who are battling or have lost their fight with cancer. He decided to sign up with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training program to participate in the City Of Oaks Half Marathon in Raleigh on Nov. 6.
Team In Training (TNT) is the largest fundraising program for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) and it exists to find a cure for blood cancers. Since 1988 TNT has trained more than 500,000 endurance athletes and raised more than $1 billion toward the mission of LLS: to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life for patients and their families. The TNT program is designed for beginners who complete a five- to six-month training program with certified coaches for marathons, half-marathons, triathlons and century bike rides. In exchange for an expense-free event weekend, participants are asked to raise money for LLS. The program has proved that with proper support and guidance, beginners can make their athletic dreams a reality. TNT has broken through the stereotypes that one must be an ultimate athlete in order to complete an endurance event.
Another goal Tony had in mind when joining TNT was losing weight. “I started training at my heaviest weight: 305 pounds,” he says. “On race day I had lost 60 pounds.” Tony knew that weight loss was a key factor to completing the event injury-free. Prior to joining the program Tony had never run a distance above seven miles. He admits there were difficult times during the training period when he doubted himself and his goals. “I thought about the difficult times that my mother and friends had when going through chemo treatments for leukemia,” Tony says. “I would think to myself that what I’m doing is not as hard as what they had done and that I was strong enough to keep pressing on.”
“Tony showed up on Saturday mornings quiet, focused and ready to go,” says TNT coach Elaine Tarkington. “He would take off with the group and he would never brag about how much weight he had lost or the tremendous dedication he had for getting healthier. His success is proof that focus, hard work and a great team can help anyone reach their goal.”
The evening before his race, Tony made tags to hang on his TNT jersey that represented the people he was running for. “I wore the one with my mother’s name over my heart on the front of my shirt,” Tony says. The tags helped provide motivation for him throughout the race and served as reminders of why he joined TNT. “My entire back was covered with dangling tags,” Tony says. “People asked me along the way what the tags were for; it was very motivating.” He initially had planned to alternate between running and walking on race day but because of his weight-loss success Tony was able to run the entire 13.1 miles. Tony’s New Year’s resolution for 2012 is to continue losing weight.
“Weight should not be a factor in deciding about doing an endurance event,” Tony says. “We have the most control over our mental fortitude and what’s in our hearts. I never knew how much I loved running until training with TNT. I feel so great after a nice long run; I feel less distracted by my surroundings.”
Teams are forming now all across North Carolina. From the coast to the mountains, participants have the chance to join a team for the experience of a lifetime. Visit www.teamintraining.org/nc to find your local staff contacts.
# # #
Gwen Romeo is a campaign coordinator for Team In Training in the Charlotte area. Gwen became involved with TNT in October 2008 when she completed the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco. Gwen has since completed four TNT events and doesn’t plan to stop there. She is inspired and motivated by the volunteers who give their time to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients and fund research for a cure. She is honored to help others throughout their own TNT journey and watch them go from couch potatoes to endurance warriors!