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Duo Running Marathon to Honor Friend

by on October 28, 2012 8:30 AM

After running as a hobby for more than 30 years, Katie O’Toole’s next race will be much more than a quick jog around her neighborhood in Lemont. On Nov. 4, O’Toole, an adjunct instructor in Penn State’s College of Communications, and her son, David Gray will run in the New York City Marathon in honor of Tigh McManus, a close family friend who passed away from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a very rare lung disease, in July 2010.

After attempting to enter the famous marathon held in the Big Apple for three years, two-time marathon veteran O’Toole and her son were finally accepted as runners this year. Almost immediately they decided to run in honor of McManus.

“We were trying to think of what we could do to help us through the grieving process,” she said.

And so the training began.

In June, O’Toole began preparing for the marathon. Starting out with a very low level of running, she alternated short run days with long run days and added an even longer run once a week.

“In the beginning of that five months period my short runs are about two miles, my long runs are about three miles and my weekly long run is about four miles. Then I’ll do that for a couple of weeks and then my short runs become three miles, my long runs become five miles and my big weekly run will be a seven or a 10,” she said. “That’s how I’ve trained most of the way, to the point where towards the end I’ll be doing my long, it will be about a 15-miler.”

O’Toole has begun her tapering off period — she has begun to cut down on her running.

Normally, her tapering off period wouldn’t start until a week before the marathon, but this year is a little different. O’Toole’s daughter is expecting a baby this week, causing her to spend a long weekend in the Tahoe area.

“I don’t anticipate getting a lot of running in,” she laughed.

Like O’Toole, Gray is a running veteran, having participated in the New York City Ironman this past summer. O’Toole said training for this 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-run has her son in great physical condition.

Though she says Gray generally runs at a faster pace than she does, the two plan to run together during the NYC Marathon.

“He’ll take it slow for me and I’ll be trying to push a little bit to not slow him down too much. We will meet somewhere in the middle,” she said.

Though the two had never thought of running the marathon for a cause before, Gray’s decision to use his Ironman run as a way to raise money for the Tigh P. McManus Memorial Fund, a memorial fund created by McManus’ wife Deb to raise money for IPF research, gave O’Toole an idea.

She and Gray have been asking friends, family and community members to honor McManus by giving $26.20 donations, one dollar for every mile of the marathon, to the Tigh P. McManus Memorial Fund.

“We thought ‘well let’s take this a little bit further and ask other people to make donations in support of us running the marathon.’ We have a PayPal account set up on this Facebook page that Deb had established for Tigh where people can make contributions,” O’Toole said.

Because many people began sending $25 donations, O’Toole and Gray have decided to contribute $1.20 to make the 26.2 miles.

Since O’Toole and Gray made their decision to run in honor of McManus, the fund has seen a lot of activity.

“We are getting a lot of small donations that are adding up to a significant amount,” O’Toole said.

O’Toole hopes running in the NYC marathon with Gray will help to the two have closure with their loss. Because of his condition, McManus was prone to infection during his last months, causing neither to be able to truly say goodbye.

“It’s just something that really bothers me that I never had that kind of closer,” O’Toole said.

But most of all, O’Toole hopes that her run in the NYC Marathon will raise awareness about IPF and funding for research, as she believes it is something Tigh would have wanted.

“He was just such a reliable good friend that for me this was just something I could do for Tigh. It’s not going to directly benefit Tigh, but it’s going to help someone else and Tigh was such a generous, giving person that I feel like that would make him happy.”

To contribute to the Tigh P. McManus Memorial Fund, please visit Facebook and search for the Tigh P. McManus Memorial Fund.

Sam is a correspondent for the Gazette.
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