200 miles: Women run for research

Jane Hoffmann has run in many marathons, but that is a solo effort. Running a long-distance team race has been on her bucket list for a long time.

“This is a new experience. Being part of a team was always something I wanted to do,” she said.

When the opportunity presented itself to run in a 200-mile Ragnar Relay to benefit the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, she embraced it. Ms. Hoffmann, who lives in Wilton, is the manager of MMRF endurance events — marathon and half-marathon fund-raisers — at the foundation, based in Norwalk.

Working at the foundation, she said, “I feel like I am connected in so many ways to so many patients. It seemed like the right thing to do.”

She joined 11 women in the race that began Friday morning, Oct. 4, at 9 in Cumberland, Md., and ended Saturday afternoon at the National Harbor on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. Ms. Hoffmann’s team, the Myeloma Minions, clocked in around 4 p.m.

They were not alone, running in the company of about 320 other teams. In a Ragnar race, each team member runs three legs of varying distances of three to nine miles each, depending on the terrain. Two vans travel with each team, taking runners to and from transition points at the beginning and end of each leg. Ms. Hoffmann ran 18.1 miles. The team ran during the day and at night, through mountains, Civil War-era towns and farmland. They ran on dark forest roads, scenic trails and along highways.

There were five women from Connecticut among the Myeloma Minions, two from New Hampshire, three from Virginia, and one each from Massachusetts and New Jersey.

“Two are patients fighting multiple myeloma, two of us work at the research foundation and eight were running to honor a loved one fighting multiple myeloma or someone who lost the battle,” she said.

Not all the women were as accomplished runners as Ms. Hoffmann, and they faced challenges of running in the dark with a headlamp and over hilly terrain.

“We all inspired each other,” she said of her teammates. “My last leg was really hard,” she said, but she drew on the resolve of her teammates to keep going. “When you’re out in the dark and you can’t see another runner in front of you or behind you, what gets you to the transition is knowing the others are with you.”

When it was over, Ms. Hoffmann was able to reflect on what they had achieved.

“It was a beautiful weekend with 12 amazing women,” she said, who have raised $3,500 so far. They hope to reach a goal of $5,000. Donations may be made online to http://www.active.com/donate/2013mmrfYOR/MyelomaMinions.

Multiple myeloma is an incurable blood cancer, and although progress is being made in treatment, the five-year survival rate is one of the lowest of all cancers, Ms. Hoffmann said. The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation was founded 15 years ago, and in the past 10 years has helped get six drugs approved to treat the disease. Ninety percent of the foundation’s budget goes toward research and related programming, Ms. Hoffmann said.

She quoted a patient named Sally who said, “Cancer may take years from my life, but it won’t take life from my years.”

Information: themmrf.org.