Running in a marathon may seem absurd to most people — trekking across countless miles, enduring great physical pain and receiving minimal recognition from the media.But for University of Wisconsin grad student Jaime-Alexis Fowler, it’s a growing sport that’s close to her heart.Fowler’s just like professional athletes in America’s most popular sports — she’s in it for mainly one reason: the money.Two marathons into her career, she’s already earned more than $15,000. Yet, she hasn’t received a penny. That’s because Fowler has given it all to charity.Fowler’s mother suffers from fibromuscular dysplasia, a genetic disease that leads to strokes, aneurysms and circulation problems. Fowler figured running about 26 miles would be the least she do for all her mother has gone through.”I figured if my mom could make it through all she has gone through, I could run 26.2 miles,” Fowler said. “It’s a small gift to her that I think meant a lot.”Fowler ran her first ever marathon earlier this year at the Big Sur Marathon in California with no previous marathon running experience.Having been a rower and involved in several other sports in high school, Fowler only viewed running as a tool for training.”I’m not the biggest running fan,” she confessed. “I hated running and viewed it as a chore to push through rather than fun.”Completing the Big Sur was a struggle for Fowler, but she managed to earn more than $4,000 for the National Stroke Association — something much more important to her than her finishing time, which she can barely even recall.After the success she experienced in her first marathon, Fowler couldn’t wait to register for another one. This time, though, she wasn’t going to run for her mother or the National Stroke Association.Fowler dedicated the next marathon to her best friend, Ashley Harris, who has fought cystic fibrosis throughout her life.”Despite not being able to walk for a few days afterwards, I was so filled with euphoria that I immediately wanted to do another marathon to help raise money for medical research,” Fowler said. “In addition to my mom, Ashley, perhaps more than any of my friends, has been an incredible role model of how to deal with adversity.”Fowler searched for marathons with teams supporting cystic fibrosis and came across the Chicago Marathon.While the opportunity to raise money (this time, more than $11,000) in honor of Harris and her upcoming wedding was her main motive in running the marathon, Fowler was even more attracted to the Chicago Marathon because of its almost completely flat course, unlike the Big Sur, which is known for up and down hills.Also, Fowler knew she wouldn’t be running this marathon alone, as fellow UW student Heather Marie Stur would be joining her in Chicago.Nevertheless, Fowler’s second marathon wasn’t any easier than the first, and to make matters worse, the conditions weren’t favorable with heavy wind, light drizzle and the temperature in the low ’40s.In fact, the weather was so bad that the winner of the marathon, Robert Cheruiyot, slipped and fell, banging his head on the ground at the finish line — many media outlets’ only highlight of the event.While marathons may not be the most appealing sporting event to cover, they are slowly gaining some popularity — something Fowler has noticed since her start earlier this year.”Having run two and been a spectator at two others, they are actually really fun to watch,” she said. “It’s the ultimate test of one’s abilities in many ways. I think it’s a challenge that more people are wanting to take on, and it’s also a fantastic way to raise money.”But whether marathon running becomes popular or not, achievements like Fowler’s should be recognized, as they are a breath of fresh air from the mainstream of trash-talking, money-hungry, ignorant professional athletes.Sure, there are some standout guys out there, but they are few and far between. And they barely any come close to the extent Fowler has dedicated herself to.To devote months of training to a sport she never even liked and endure the pain of completing a marathon for the pure satisfaction of simply seeing that those close to her are happy is a remarkable achievement, and the sports world should have more like it.Sure, sports are all about the competition and the strive to win, but at the end of the day, life goes on, so why not use your talents to help others in the process?And Fowler is far from done. She has many more people she would like to reach out to, so that means many more marathons.However, she’s taking a break off in the mean time — but not by her choice.”I wanted to immediately sign up for another one,” she said following the Chicago Marathon. “But my friends made me promise I would wait for a little while. I’ve been doing so much running for the past 10 months that I think my friends and family are ready for me to relax a little.”It’s really fun, though,” she continued. “I think I’ll probably run one next semester … maybe San Francisco since my family lives there.”Michael Poppy is a senior double majoring in journalism and Communication Arts. To help Fowler’s cause, you can contact him at [email protected] or visit her website at http://www.active.com/donate/teamcfmarathon2006/mJFowler.
Grad student runs for cause