Three women, each with deep ties to William & Mary, each with a unique reason for participating in the Run for the Dream half-marathon in Williamsburg on Sunday.
First, however, some background. This is the third annual Run for the Dream weekend of races, the title sponsors of which include William & Mary as well as Colonial Williamsburg, Towne Bank and Busch Gardens. Saturday morning at 8, there is an 8K run/walk, followed two hours later by a kids fun run.
On Sunday, the half-marathon begins at 7 a.m.
Proceeds go to a pair of charities: An Achievable Dream and the Achilles Freedom team of Wounded Warriors.
An Achievable Dream is a non-profit organization that operates two nationally recognized K-12 schools in partnership with a public school system and is dedicated to the belief that all children can learn and succeed regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds, and that education can break the cycle of poverty.
The Achilles Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans is a program founded in 2004 for veterans disabled in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 400 vets have been introduced to marathon racing as part of their rehabilitation. The team now includes veterans injured in previous conflicts, including the Vietnam and Korean wars.
Those charities are a large part of the reason Jodi Fisler M.Ed. ’05, Ph.D. ’11 and Jasmine Curry ’12 will take the starting line across from Phi Beta Kappa Hall Sunday.
“I’m impressed and support the charities that benefit from this race,” said Fisler, assistant to the vice president, director of Student Affairs Planning & Assessment. “My other reasons for participating are that it’s a local race – which I love – and the course is beautiful."
Curry’s connection with An Achievable Dream is even more tangible. A Newport News native, she was an Achievable Dream student who has been working with Dream Academy students this year.
“I wanted to get back into running and I decided if I had a goal to work towards, I’d stay motivated,” she said. “I heard an ad for the race on the radio, that it would benefit An Achievable Dream Academy and that W&M was a sponsor. It just made perfect sense that I'd set a goal to run in this race.”
Fisler is a veteran runner, who ran her first two long-distance races in 2002 then put down her shoes for several years before getting back into it in 2011. She’s completed marathons at Disney World, Richmond and – holding hands with her dad as they crossed the finish line – Athens, Greece.
While Fisler has running experience and Curry is working her way back into the sport, for Holly Alexander-Agati, Sunday is the continued celebration of a monumental physical feat.
Alexander-Agati Ph.D. ’12, associate director of Residence Life, this week reached her goal of losing 84 pounds, a journey she started about 18 months ago. In May 2012, she started a “couch to 5k” program with a goal or running 12 or 13 races in 2012-13.
“The program takes you through an eight-12 week course where you start with walks and runs, and it helps you build your endurance,” Alexander-Agati said. “It pushed me in ways I didn’t think I could do. One week it said to run eight minutes straight. I was like, ‘Are you crazy? Kidding me? I’ve never run eight minutes straight.’ But it was motivating to say I have this next goal.”
In February, she and Fisler completed the Colonial half-marathon, a tall order for someone who didn’t have enough stamina to run for 30 seconds when she first began. A couple of weeks ago, she ran 12 miles in preparation for Sunday.
“Being able to run makes you feel so different,” she said. “You feel powerful. You feel strong. You feel athletic. As someone who was so sedentary before and had a lot of extra poundage, it’s just something I never could have done . . . Now to be able to run four miles – or longer – (two or three times) every week is amazing.”
Fisler and Alexander-Agati are part of a Saturday morning runners group that began in 2010. About 15 in number, the group runs a minimum of four miles – within sight of each other -- with those in training for longer-distance races adding miles onto their workout at the end.
“At this point, I’m still pretty competitive,” Fisler said, “but I’m more concerned with finishing (Sunday) without getting injured. Running, for me, is a joyful activity that I share with friends and just enjoy.
“At the Colonial, for example, four of us stayed in close proximity until the last three miles, when I left the remaining person. She was tiring, and she told me to go on. We often go into races saying, ‘We’re going to run our race,’ but since this has become a more social occasion for me, I think it’s great to help others stay in it mentally.”
Sunday will be Curry’s first “official” race, meaning one that is sponsored. A former cross country runner in high school, she was an “inconsistent” jogger at W&M, but has found running to be a “great stress reliever” and says she plans to stick with it from here on out.
In preparing for Sunday, Curry has run more than 300 miles, and recently accomplished something extraordinary.
“I ran my own ‘personal marathon’ in just under four hours, 45 minutes,” Curry said. “That’s something that was on my lifetime bucket list!"