PERU - As Michelle St. Onge celebrated her 39th birthday in February, she began thinking - the next birthday she will celebrate will be the one that brings her to the age many dread - the big 4-0.
"As I get closer to my 40th birthday, I have been thinking about the accomplishments and challenges that I have encountered along the way," said St. Onge. "I came to the conclusion that I have been touched by so many people, and blessed in many ways."
Being fortunate for having had such a full life so far, St. Onge decided she needed to give back in a big way, in a way she never had before - running the annual Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco, Calif., to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training.
"It was important to me that whatever I do to celebrate be both personally gratifying and connect me to a higher purpose," she said. "Running a marathon for the benefit of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society allows me to achieve both of those goals."
Though St. Onge has been a casual runner since 2001, the 26.2-mile marathon is an event unlike any other in which she's competed.
"I've only done 5Ks until last year when I ran the Adirondack Distance Festival's half-marathon," St. Onge said, referring to the 13.1-mile event held in Schroon Lake last September. "While running it, I was inspired by the huge presence of purple-shirted Team in Training runners and trainers there, so it got me thinking."
When she turned the almost as big 3-9, St. Onge reflected on those purple shirts and decided to join the effort. Since then, she's been busy asking friends and family for support for the Oct. 18 event. And, with a goal of raising $5,000, she hasn't set the bar low for her first time participating.
"I like a good challenge, and I wanted to really make a difference," she said. "It is extremely important to raise money so that scientists can continue to work to try and find a cure for blood cancers."
Even though her fundraising efforts have just begun, St. Onge said she is "greatly encouraged" by the positive response she's already received from local businesses and individuals.
"I am touched by the generosity of the wonderful people in my circle of family and friends who are willing to support this worthy cause," she said.
And, though she is able to accept donations for her participation until shortly after the October event, St. Onge has given herself until Wednesday, July 1, to reach her fundraising goal. The idea is to be able to focus solely on her physical training at that point, to help her finish the marathon in the best time possible.
"Some people may think that a small donation doesn't make a difference, but that's just not true," emphasized St. Onge. "If every person I've told about Team in Training consciously chose to donate a few dollars instead of splurging on a gourmet coffee on the way to work in the morning, I'd be well on my way to reaching my goal."
Those interested in making a donation toward St. Onge's efforts may view her Team in Training page on-line at http://pages.teamintraining.org/uny\Nikesf09/mstonge. Donations may also be mailed in care of St. Onge to P.O. Box 873, Peru N.Y. 12972.
The Upstate New York/Vermont chapter of Team in Training will hold an informational meeting Thursday, July 30, at the Holiday Inn, 412 State Route 3, Plattsburgh, for those also wanting to sign up for this October's event. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. For more information, call 438-3583 or 1-866-255-3583 or visit www.teamintraining.org/uny.