Woman completes 100th half marathon

Continues to raise funds for ALS

Sue Girard-Jackson of Marquette runs in a previous marathon. She completed her 100th half marathon Saturday at the Marquette Marathon. Girard-Jackson ran her first at the inaugural Marquette Marathon in 2010 and has been running to raise funds for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, for several years. (Courtesy photo)

MARQUETTE — A local woman who has been running for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, completed her 100th half marathon Saturday when she ran in the Marquette Marathon.

Sue Girard-Jackson of Marquette, who caught the “running bug” after her first half marathon at the inaugural Marquette Marathon in 2010, said she thoroughly enjoyed hitting her “century” mark.

“It went good, it felt good,” Girard-Jackson said. “I had a couple friends running with me and we took it slow and easy to just enjoy the experience.”

Girard-Jackson said she has been running for ALS, sometimes known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, since 2014, when she learned Tim Shaw, the son of a close friend, had been diagnosed with the fatal neurodegenerative condition that “slowly robs the body of its ability to walk, speak, swallow and breathe.”

“Every race I ran, I would be thinking of Tim and I would, in my mind, dedicate my run to him,” Girard-Jackson said. “And after that, after I did that for several races, I started to think ‘There should be something more. What else can I do? I want to do something as opposed to something just in my own mind.’ And I thought ‘Well, maybe I can come up with a goal,’ so my goal ended up to be to run 60 half marathons in 18 months while raising funds for ALS research.”

Girard-Jackson said she and her running partner, Rhonda Luevano, set the goal in early 2016 and completed the 60 runs in June 2017, raising about $4,000 for the ALS Therapy Institute of Boston. But even after completing the goal, Girard-Jackson has continued to run in honor of Shaw, a former NFL linebacker with the Tennessee Titans.

Throughout her time running for ALS, Girard-Jackson has had an opportunity to connect with many others whose lives have been touched by the disease, she said, as “at almost every single race” someone has reached out with their own story after seeing her wear an ALS shirt during the events.

“It’s just become amazing to me how many people’s lives you can touch just by even wearing something saying that ‘I support ALS,'” she said.

For those who may be interested in raising funds for ALS, Girard-Jackson said there are many ways to do so.

One is through a walk for ALS to be held Oct. 27 in Nashville, Tennessee, she said. Girard-Jackson will be walking with Shaw’s TShawStronG team, but for those who can’t make the trip for the walk, she said it’s “very easy to just join a team and fundraise for that team,” noting that walking isn’t necessary to donate or show support.

For those who would like to join the team or donate, Girard-Jackson said they can visit http://web.alsa.org/goto/SueG-J.

Furthermore, Girard-Jackson said, “there are a lot of different organizations out there that would be happy to take anyone who wants to do fundraising.”

Beyond raising funds for ALS, Girard-Jackson, who said she was “never an athletic person” prior to her many runs, also offers advice for those who wish to take up running.

“I would say just take it easy, ease into it and see how much you do or don’t enjoy it,” she said. “I’m certainly not saying that everyone enjoys it, so if you really don’t enjoy it, then don’t do it. But also, I would say it took me a good two years to say I enjoyed running, so … don’t just try it one time and give up.”

Girard-Jackson also spoke about her use of the Galloway Run Walk Run method, which was pioneered by Olympian Jeff Galloway.

“You run a specific amount of time then you walk a specific amount of time and you run a specific amount of time, and you do that throughout the entire race and that makes it much easier on my body,” she said, adding that the method makes it “a lot easier to recover from these races and then do another one the next day.”

She encourages others — especially those who may believe they can’t be runners — to try the method.

“It’s something that I would really like to see other people try if they want to run but think they can’t because they’re pushing themselves to just run constantly,” she said. “And it’s amazing what you can do with this method.”

Overall though, she said running for a cause is a great motivator. Even after completing her 100th half marathon Saturday, Girard-Jackson has three more planned over the coming weeks.

“For me, it was finding what really seemed to matter to me, then finding a way to do something about it,” she said.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is cbrown@miningjournal.net.