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Mom story: I run marathons for at-risk kids

Brooke Curran, 44, of Alexandria, Virginia, is a mother of three daughters ages 14, 17 and 19, and has 49 marathons (and counting) under her belt. Brooke’s determined to run marathons on every continent. Learn how she’s achieving her goal and what keeps her motivated to run roughly 80 miles a week.

by Brooke Curran
as told to Julie Weingarden Dubin

At age 30, I started running three miles per week just to get out of the house. With three daughters under the age of 7, running was an excuse to relieve the stress of motherhood and have some quiet time to myself.

My interest in running grew more intense after September 11. Sitting on my steps and watching smoke rise from the Pentagon a few miles from my home, I started to think about the big picture. That day, I decided to start crossing things off of my “bucket list,” and running a marathon seemed like a logical place to start. I went down to the local running shop and asked if they could help me get ready for a marathon.

Running for kids

I ran my first marathon in 2002, and things just gained momentum from there. At first, I was focusing on my times and how I could get better with each subsequent race. But as I got faster and even started winning in my age group, I felt empty inside as I crossed the finish line. Then, one day I was driving through a depressed part of Alexandria and realized that I needed to do something to help, and I could do it through running.

In March 2009, I established the RunningBrooke Fund and made a commitment to run a marathon on all seven continents and in all 50 states to raise money for impoverished families in my hometown of Alexandria, Virginia. So far, I’ve raised more than $150,000 for five local charities that benefit families and children.

Easy breathing

During a track workout in 2009, I had to stop because I was short of breath and felt painful burning in my chest. I knew that something was seriously wrong and that I needed to see a physician. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to run again and would let down all the families I had pledged to help through my charity, RunningBrooke Fund.

I went to a respiratory specialist and learned that I was suffering from asthma and exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB) that affects an estimated 30 million people in the U.S., and can happen to anyone at any time. Thankfully, it’s a treatable condition. My doctor prescribed an albuterol inhaler which has become part of my pre-run regimen. Taking my inhaler 20-30 minutes before every workout and race is as essential to me as stretching.

I’m now on the board of Allergy and Asthma Network/Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA), a nonprofit family health organization dedicated to eliminating suffering and death due to asthma, allergies and related conditions. I hope to help inspire adults and children with asthma to fulfill their dreams and understand that this condition doesn’t need to hinder them.

Marathon mom

I won the Antarctica Marathon last March in 30 degree temperatures with sleet and 40 mph wind gusts. Luckily I paced the race right, had my EIB under control and pulled ahead about mile 20 to win among females.

I run about 80 miles per week, mostly outside but I also try to get in some runs in the pool to relieve stress on my joints. I also do strength training and conditioning. Africa will be the last continent for me to conquer a marathon and I would like to do the marathon on Mount Kilimanjaro.

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I hope I’m showing my daughters how to be strong, perseverant, caring and to make a difference. Motherhood’s taught me to be more patient and understanding, and that everyone has talents to share.

I’m motivated by the kids and families whom I’m helping. I can’t let them down. I like the feeling of being strong and knowing that my body can do amazing things. It’s a beautiful thing when your mind and body connect and you effortlessly float through 26.2 miles. It doesn’t happen all of the time, but when it does, it’s life-changing.

Mom wisdom

Having asthma doesn’t mean you have to give up your dreams. Take life one step at a time, one day at a time and look at the big picture. It’s always darkest before the dawn!

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