Marathon runner reaches her goals
Special to the TIMES NEWS Melissa Hager, of Lehighton, shown at the Walt Disney World Marathon at the Walt Disney Resort near Orlando, FL, earlier this month. All told, Hager has raised over $6,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
What may seem impossible on the surface really isn't with the proper will and drive to succeed.
A Lehighton woman recently proved that tenfold through her participation in the Walt Disney World Marathon held earlier this month.
When all was said and done, Melissa Hager finished the excruciating run at the Walt Disney Resort near Orlando, FL, in four hours, 26 minutes and in the process, raised $5,055.
Coupled with another $1,200 she raised for the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon she plans to run in April, Hager has raised over $6,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Not bad for someone who said her goal was to finish the run in under five hours and raise $4,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
"I think I surprised myself; I guess it wasn't quite as hard as I thought it would be," Hager said. "What slowed me down more was there were so many people in the beginning, but that left me be stronger in the end, so I didn't tire."
Hager, who said she ran three half-marathons prior to the marathon run, said it was "unseasonably cold for Florida" at the start of the race.
"I had trained in that, so it didn't really affect me, and I never felt overheated," she said. "It was amazing, and the fact that I did it with Team in Training, there was always people cheering for you, calling out your name."
Above all else, Hager, 34, said the camaraderie was a real sight to behold.
"That's why I want to do it a second time," she said. "I had a great time."
All the proceeds that were raised will be used for cancer research, patient and family care and education, and can help bring closer to finding a cure for Leukemia, Lymphoma, Myeloma, and other blood cancers.
A physical therapist at West End Physical Therapy in Kresgeville, Hager said she joined the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training program to help train for the 26.2-mile run.
Hager said she chose the charity, in part, because her brother-in-law, Carl Hesse, was diagnosed with lymphoma after a large lump was found in his groin.
Originally from Palmerton, Hesse, 48, is married to Hager's sister, Jennifer. Together, the couple has two daughters and reside in Nazareth.
After an ultrasound and biopsy, Hesse was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin, B-cell lymphoma. Hesse is currently in remission, Hager said.
"It wasn't just him, but how many people have been affected," said Hager, who added one her friend's sister passed away from lymphoma. "A coach there said 'whoever you're running for, they're with you now'; that was what hit me."
Hager, who said she doesn't necessarily classify herself as a runner, had an important message for those who may wish to follow in her footsteps.
"Never doubt yourself; it's amazing what you can accomplish when you have a goal in mind and have a purpose," she said. "Never say you can't."
Hager said anyone interested in making a donation may do so directly to the LLS, or make a donation in the honor/memory of another.
Donations may be returned to Melissa Hager, 85 Ridgeview Drive, Lehighton, PA, 18235. Checks may be made payable to the LLS. For online donations, visit www.teamintraining.org, or http://pages.teamintraining.org/epa/wdw10/mhageroqr2.
Created in 1949, the mission of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and to improve the quality of life of patients and their families.
The group was formed when the Villiers family lost their then 16-year-old son, Robert Roesler de Villiers, to leukemia. That resulted in the creation of the Robert Roesler de Villiers Foundation, which later became The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
The world's largest endurance sports training program, Team in Training began in 1988 when Bruce Cleland of Rye, NY, formed a team that raised funds and trained to run the New York City Marathon in honor of Cleland's daughter, Georgia, a leukemia survivor.
Since its inception, Team in Training has raised over $1 billion to support blood cancer research and patient services.