February 17, 2010

A Marathon Giveback

By Bridget Cass
Special to GoHolyCross.com

It's the last week of practices and the Holy Cross swim team is tapering down, shaving mohawks and preparing for the Patriot League Championship. For most of the team, the end of the season means a break in training for at least a couple weeks, if not more. For one member of the women's team, however, Patriots is simply a break from swimming, and more time for running.

Emily Greeke (Hamilton, Mass.), a junior freestyler on the women's swimming and diving team, is training for the Boston Marathon. This means that on top of her normal team practices, she is also running miles daily in preparation for April 19, holding off on her long runs until Sunday, the one day off from swim practice. "It's been difficult to work my running schedule around swim meets," says Greeke. "I don't want to tire myself out for those and I've been tapering down my running as the team has been tapering for Patriots. Hopefully it won't be a problem to start back up after we get back from the Championship."

For Greeke, running the marathon goes beyond a way to stay in shape for the off-season, or something to cross of the bucket list. In what she is calling her ‘giveback', she is running for the MassGeneral Marathon Team, specifically for the Children Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Center at MGH.

"When I looked into it, I was partially looking for the name of one specific charity," Greeke says, that charity being Mass General. "I didn't see its name on the Boston Marathon website, so I did some research just to see if there was an MGH team because I knew that Children's Hospital in Boston had one." Then Greeke stumbled upon the MassGeneral Marathon Team, and committed to training and racing with them.

A junior now, Greeke spent the end of her senior year of high school and beginning of her freshman year of college in and out of MassGeneral after developing Myasthenia Gravis, an auto-immune, neuromuscular disease that causes muscle fatigue. While never actually a pediatric oncology patient, by running for any MassGeneral team Greeke says she is sure that she is raising funds to assure that children all over MassGaneral will receive the same care and attention that she did.

"Every person I met at MassGeneral, every doctor, nurse and volunteer, was such a strong influence on me. It was so obvious that they genuinely cared about me as a person and about helping me return back to normal health, and that really had a lasting effect on me," says Greeke. "So, for me, running the marathon is really all about thanking everyone at the hospital. It was one of the best ways I could think of to give back and really make a large-scale difference."

On top of running with the Pediatric Oncology team, Greeke also hopes to become a member of the patient-partner program that MassGeneral has, in which runners are paired with a specific patient, with whom they then spend time and get to know, as well as run directly in honor of. At the time of the interview, she still had not heard back from the program, but was optimistic she would get a spot.

And so, long after her teammates are done training, Greeke will continue running daily in preparation for the marathon. She has the additional burden of raising $3,500 for the hospital, which she continues to campaign for. To help support her cause, visit http://www.firstgiving.com/emilygreeke. Or, just give her a pat on the back or a thumbs up next time you see her running on the track or the treadmill. Emily Greeke's Giveback: you really can't get any more "men and women for others" than that!

The Holy Cross men's and women's swimming and diving teams travels to Annapolis, Md. for the Patriot League Championship Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 18-20.