A Fitness Resolution: The AIDS Marathon in Dublin

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Farai Chideya crosses the finish line in Dublin.

Farai Chideya crosses the finish line in Dublin. hide caption

itoggle caption

Farai Chideya is just one of millions of Americans working to get in better shape in 2006, and the new year gave her a chance to reflect on one of her top accomplishments of 2005: completing a marathon. She recently finished the AIDS Marathon held in Dublin, Ireland.

ED GORDON, host:

I'm Ed Gordon and this is NEWS & NOTES.

Now is about the time when Americans, pushed by New Year's resolutions, get new gym memberships. Of course, some never really make it to the gym. NPR's Farai Chideya is just one of millions of Americans working to get in better shape. And the new year gave her a chance to reflect on one of her top accomplishments of last year: competing in a marathon. But her journey wasn't just about fitness. Here's more from Farai.

(Soundbite of cheers)

Unidentified Man: Are you ready to run this morning?

(Soundbite of cheers)

FARAI CHIDEYA reporting:

Halloween 2005, Dublin, Ireland, marathon day. Marathon day? Yes, marathon day. It was me, wasn't it, who signed up through the AIDS Marathon program to run 26.2 miles, even though I don't like running, I'm not good at it, and I'm overweight. On the other hand, it was me who raised over $5,000. Now I had to make good to all the people who donated and actually do the miles. I wasn't alone. The whole fun of the AIDS Marathon program and similar sports fund-raisers for causes, including leukemia and breast cancer, is that you get to meet new people, raise money for a good cause and bust some cardio moves.

My team was the slow team. By the time we finished our training runs, the fast runners had gone home, showered and had brunch. Whatever. My group was great, and everyone had their own reasons for running. Lydia, my running partner.

LYDIA (Runner): Just a chance to celebrate my health. I had kidney problems about six months ago, decided to do something about it, and stay healthy, get healthy, and here I am.

CHIDEYA: Ginger.

GINGER (Runner): It's my birthday.

CHIDEYA: And Starr.

STARR (Runner): I think I'm going insane.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STARR: Momentary insanity.

CHIDEYA: I'm with you, Starr, but I ran, as so many did, because I've had friends and family die from or need help in living with HIV. I thought of them as I huddled under a storefront awaiting the starting gun, because on marathon morning, it was pouring rain. By the time we got to the 10-mile mark, we were wet and hurting.

We've been out here at least two and a half hours, and let's check in with two of our folks who are running, Starr and Ginger. Say `hey.'

STARR: Hey.

CHIDEYA: How you doing, Starr?

STARR: Not good. I'm going to hang in there, but...

CHIDEYA: What's hurting?

STARR: My feet.

CHIDEYA: Ginger?

GINGER: My feet are kicking.

CHIDEYA: Most runners hit the wall or run out of energy at 20-plus miles. Lydia and I were no exception. Energy gels didn't make a difference, so we did what we had to do. We sang. Now I can't sing to begin with, but singing while you're tired and running does not do much for your vocal tone. Let me tell you, though, there's nothing like belting out bad '80s tunes to keep you going.

(Soundbite of music)

CHIDEYA: (Singing) ...because we are living in a material world and I am a material girl. You know that we are living in a material world, and I am a material girl.

(Soundbite of music)

CHIDEYA: (Singing) Sweet dreams are made of this, who am I to disagree?

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Group: (Singing) No, no, ooh, keep on...

CHIDEYA: (Singing) Keep on when the fun starts, don't stop till you get enough. Keep on when the fun starts, don't stop till you get enough.

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Keep on till the fun starts, don't stop till you get enough. Keep on...

CHIDEYA: When we crossed the finish line, whoo-whee, you could probably see my smile all the way to Brooklyn. And then, of course, it was time to head to the pub for a celebration with the other runners, including Joseph Pollichi(ph).

(Soundbite of pub activity)

CHIDEYA: So what has this program done for you physically?

Mr. JOSEPH POLLICHI (Runner): I have had the most amazing experience. I have made some incredible friends. I have lost 50 pounds doing this. I've raised a ton of money for the community. I made a huge personal goal of running a marathon, and I came to an awesome place to do it.

CHIDEYA: I didn't lose 50 pounds, but I was definitely a winner. I still feel a sense of accomplishment that will hopefully carry through to my New Year's resolution of exercising regularly. And you know those people who sing along with their headphones at the gym? I promise, I won't be one of them.

(Soundbite of music)

CHIDEYA and Unidentified Singer: (Singing) What a feeling, being is believing, I can have it all, now I'm dancing for my life.

Unidentified Singer: Take your passion and make it happen. It just comes alive. You can dance right through your life.

CHIDEYA: Farai Chideya, NPR News.

GORDON: To see a picture of Farai running in the marathon, please log on to npr.org.

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