Celebrating 10 years at the Bellin Run

July 6, 2018

Recently, we hit a major milestone, the 10th anniversary of our first race, the Bellin Run!  I’d like to take some time to reflect on the experience Tiffany and I had when we met Mary, our first Captain and took the first steps of this journey!  


In the spring of 2008, I met a woman who would become my first client while working at Bellin Health.  She called me with excitement and an eagerness to begin improving her fitness.  Mary didn’t mention to me over the phone that she had Muscular Dystrophy.  I first discovered this fact when she came in to our first appointment riding her husband’s back 😳.  Talking with Mary, it became very clear to me that I was in the presence of a truly unique individual.  The stories Mary had demonstrating the challenges she needed to overcome were mind-blowing to me.  They were also incredibly inspiring to me personally as at that time I was struggling with an addiction that affected my health.  One of the most important lessons Mary has taught me is that the best way to help yourself is to help others.  While I gave Mary guidance and support in her personal training, she provided me perspective and a true example of grit!  I know Mary wouldn’t be offended by me telling you that she is a big pain in the butt 🤣!!


As we progressed in her training, I had this feeling like we were hitting a wall.  I knew we could make some improvements in her physical ability but the gains I hoped she’d make were not ones that were realistically possible.  One day, Tiffany and I were in church and saw a video about Team Hoyt, the famous father and son duo who’ve been participating in endurance races for 40+ years!!!  Their “CAN” video is a true tear jerker.  Watching the video, I couldn’t help hold back the tears.  God was really stirring my heart with this one.  When the service ended, I told Tiffany that I knew what we could do for Mary!  We could help her get involved in the community again!


As a young person, Mary’s body was as active as her spirit.  She was constantly on the move playing outside, in sports, biking everywhere.  If you know her, this is not a surprise!  Since her teens, Mary’s physical ability has been slowly degrading as the MD progressed and broke down her muscles.  When I met Mary, life was a far cry from her active youth.  Mary shared with me that most of her day was sitting at her desk chair looking out her living room window at the world.  She was constantly being told what she couldn’t do and had very few opportunities to be around positive, life giving people who just wanted to be friends.


The Bellin Run was coming up and I felt it was a perfect opportunity to get on the road!  We sought out our first stroller by asking my co workers if anyone had a larger child jogger!  Next, we registered for the race and planned our first training run!  


The excitement for race day was electric!  We picked Mary up, found parking near the race and navigated to the stroller wave which was in the back of the event.  The race started and we waited nearly 40 minutes for our chance to cross the finish line as the thousands of runners and walkers slowly moved forward.  Many people came up to us with words of encouragement.  Most didn’t know what we were doing and shared how great it was we were doing this with our mom 🤣.  We still get a kick out of that!  As we crossed the start line, something really amazing happened for Mary.  She could forget about her disability and focus on the fun atmosphere.  People were cheering for her…which hasn’t happened for years!  She was cheering for them.  She had a smile on her face the whole time!  Mary could not stop saying how much fun she was having.  Tiffany and I were caught with the same bug.  We had a blast and that 6.2 mile race seemed to fly by!  


As we crossed the finish line, we exchanged hugs, tears and Mary said something that would forever change our lives when I asked her how that felt….I felt free!!


Mind…blown!  The reality and power of this experience was overwhelming to us all!  To Mary it was a chance for freedom.  For us it was a sense of purpose.  The best way to help yourself is to help others!


Fast forward to 2018 the scene at the Bellin Run is very different.  With the help of Bellin Health and countless other partners, we are leading a widespread movement to build a more inclusive community.  42 Captains and more than 120 Angels STARTED the race with our “sea of red”!  The sight of this many strangers coming together with a common belief is awe inspiring!  


I would personally like to take this opportunity to recognize two people at Bellin Health who’ve played a huge role in our success.  


First, is Becki Detaege.  Becki was our recent outgoing Board Chair.  She has served on our Board of Directors since 2011.  She’s been an Angel in many mTT events and has personally been a great mentor and friend.  It is no doubt that much of our success can be attributed do Becki.  Thank you, my friend!


Next, George Kerwin the CEO of Bellin Run.  If you’ve done the Bellin with us you might be surprised to know that George has been an Angel every year since 2010.  He’s a humble and generous man who takes great pride in meeting our Captains and seeing our community flourish.  When we first started, George accepted mTT with open arms and the Bellin has been our landmark event ever since and I’m sure it will continue to be for years to come.  This year, George will retire after more than 40 years of service with Bellin Health.  George, we wish you the very best in retirement.  Know you are always welcome to join us at the start line of the Bellin Run.  Bring your Angel shirt 🙂

Christian Jensen

Executive Director

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