Over $20,000 Raised by Team CHM at the Philadelphia Marathon
December 23rd, 2014 by Danny Boren
The Philadelphia Marathon on November 23, 2014 was an epic event, and a massive success for Team CHM. With the race taking place only 2 miles from where the forthcoming CHM Gene Therapy is expected to begin shortly – it was a celebration of perseverance, commitment, and a belief in our ability to find a cure for Choroideremia.
In the days leading up to the race, Philadelphia’s temperatures hovered in the mid-20’s and all runners hoped that the forecasts for warmer weather on race day would prove true. When race day came, it looked like the predictions would be right – and that the cool morning would warm into the 50’s for perfect race day weather.
It was a party atmosphere with so many CHM families and friends around. Racing the full marathon were Rhonda Timko, Sharyl & Danny Boren, and Jeff Benelli – who was wrapping up his 4th marathon in only 5 weeks . . . an almost super-human effort. The 1/2 marathon field featured CRF President Chris Moen and Alis Moen (each taking part in their first half marathon ever!), Jerry Timko, Virginia Timko, Wendy Gradwohl, Randy Wheelock, and Jodi McLaughlin – who was just 7 days off of completing her first full Ironman Triathlon in Tempe, Arizona. Joining the 1/2 Marathon crowd was Dr. Al Maguire – former collegiate runner and the renown UPenn Retinal Surgeon who will be performing the first ever U.S. gene therapy surgeries to treat CHM as part of the upcoming clinical trials. All totaled there were 12 runners for Team CHM in either the 1/2 or the full Philly Marathon! Cheering on the dozen Team CHM runners were CRF Executive Director Eric Hartman, CRF Operations Manager Cory MacDonald, Julie Benelli and her parents, Max Timko, and Dr. Jean Bennett!
There were 30,000 runners participating in the event, so when the starting gun went off all but the professionals at the front were still standing in place. The race began by “Corral” and as each of these groups of many thousands of runners would reach the starting line they would get their own start announced. Many Team CHM runners didn’t cross the starting line for 30 min. after the official race gun went off – but once across the line a game of human pinball began. Bumping and bouncing off of other runners who were on all sides – Team CHM racers started making forward progress. In the front of the pack was Jeff Benelli – who was significantly slowed down by the masses of people and the difficulty in navigating the crowds – but Jeff was none-the-less in the front of the full marathon contingent. Dr. Al Maguire was the lead 1/2 marathon runner for Team CHM – flying down the road at a 7:25 per mile pace. Not far behind were Wendy Gradwohl and Jodi McLaughlin each holding a sub-9 minute per mile pace. Much like a “mullet” haircut – the marathon was “Business in the front – party in the back”. On the other end of the marathon and 1/2 marathon crowd Team CHMers held their paces and chatted with others in the field, occasionally careening off to the edges of the course for “high-5’s” from spectators.
The race course took the athletes down Benjamin Franklin Boulevard – beginning and ending in front of the famous “Rocky Steps” that lead to the Museum of Art. The runners passed by LOVE Park, the Liberty Bell, and City Hall – all before the first 6 miles were through! The pack then made the first of four crossings of the Schuylkill River as they entered the area of Philly known as University City. From there it was on into Fairmount Park before turning back toward the starting area.
Passing by the Museum of Art, after crossing back over the river, 1/2 Marathon runners edged right toward the finish line and full marathoners stayed left . . . while wishing themselves another 13.1 miles further down the road where they too would be able to raise their arms in victory as they crossed the finish line.
The second half of the marathon was significantly less chaotic than the first half. With a majority of the runners heading in after 13.1 miles the marathon crowd was down to just over 10,000 racers out on the road. The course followed the Schuylkill River out to the town of Manayunk before turning to head back toward the finish. Jeff Benelli stayed out in front of the Team CHM runners, and Rhonda Timko held her pace throughout the entire 26.2 miles. Sharyl Boren – in her first ever full marathon – found “The Wall” between mile 18 and 19. She and Danny plugged along over the last grueling 7.2 miles – keeping one foot going in front of the other – well below their target pace, but still headed continuously toward the finish.
Back in the finish area Team CHM 1/2 marathon racers were pouring across the line – first in was Dr. Al Mcguire, next was Wendy Gradwohl, then Jodi McLaughlin, followed by Virginia Timko, Chris & Alis Moen, Jerry Timko, and finally Randy Wheelock wrapped up the 1/2 marathon contingent. Soon thereafter the Team CHM full marathoners began crossing the line. First in Jeff Benelli raised his hands high, celebrating a remarkable endeavor that had taken him through 4 different 26.2 mile journeys on foot in the previous 5 weeks. Next Rhonda Timko crossed – marking the completion of an awesome fundraising effort put together by the entire Timko family, and a great race day performance that she had trained many months to prepare for. Sharyl & Danny Boren wrapped up the Team CHM finishers – crossing hand-in-hand after an incredible journey through Ironman Arizona the previous weekend and now Sharyl’s first full marathon in downtown Philly.
Spark Therapeutics, the new pharmaceutical company behind the CHM Gene Therapy due to start shortly in Philadelphia, hosted a party for the Team CHM racers at their new headquarters. Everyone celebrated with drinks and great conversation between CHM family members, leading CHM researchers, and the Spark Therapeutics team. Ed & Marion Scott drove down to join everyone at the party and congratulate the Philadelphia Marathoners who together had raised over $20,000 to cure CHM!