People run for many different reasons. Often times, the reason to run has to go much deeper than simply running for yourself. Otherwise, it’s pretty easy to blow off a run on a day that’s too hot and humid, or when it rains, or if you’ve got a headache from the night before.
Running a marathon is no easy task; I’m sure virtually everyone will agree with that notion. What helps make it a little easier, though, is having a purpose, having a reason to run.
My friend, Van Kapeghian is a runner with a purpose. When he sets out to put in the necessary miles of training for a marathon, he has a clear vision of why he’s about to put himself through the sometimes grueling exercise of preparation. Van runs for his wife, Abbe.
When Abbe Meck was just thirteen years old, she had her first seizure at swim practice. It was something that seemed to come right out of nowhere, as seizures of this kind often do. Since then, Abbe has had to live with the fact that, with virtually no warning and at any time, she’ll be completely overcome by a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions.
Any kind of seizure is scary, but Abbe’s Grand Mal seizures can be really terrifying. After Van and Abbe had been dating for a while, Van experienced one of Abbe’s seizures for the first time.
“We were in the car, about to leave her parent’s house, when all of a sudden, Abbe’s eyes rolled back in her head and she blacked out,” explained Van. “She started flailing her arms and legs. It was very violent. Luckily, she had her seat belt on and was protected that way. I just felt totally helpless watching her.”
Since her first frightening episode, Abbe has tried everything to control the uncontrollable. Watching her diet and exercising regularly may be helping, but there is no cure for the type of seizure condition that plagues her…Yet!
“She’s only had about five or six seizures in the last ten years, but you never know when one might come on, “ says Van. “There’s never a good time for them to happen.”
Abbe is also a runner. Before Van and Abbe met, Abbe ran several events for a fundraising organization called, Team In Training. Raising money for charitable causes is something that sets the running community apart. Show up at any type of race, from a 5K to a full marathon, and you’ll find running groups who are running to raise money for all kinds of causes, all of which are attempting to make the world a better place.
In January 2012, Van and Abbe set out to run “The Goofy Challenge” at Disney World in Orlando, FL. The challenge combines the Half Marathon (13.1miles) on Saturday with the Full Marathon (26.2 miles) on Sunday. A collective 39.3 miles in two consecutive days is a great opportunity to raise some good money for special causes. Van and Abbe were set to run for Team In Training together.
The day before the Half Marathon, Abbe had a terrible seizure. Needless to say, she was unable to run the race. Terribly disappointed, she cheered Van on and, being cleared to run the following day in the 26.2-mile race, prepared to run with her team with the love of her life by her side.
After being reminded of how fragile life can be, Van thought long and hard about Abbe during his 13.1 mile trek around the Disney course on Saturday and decided to make his relationship with Abbe more permanent.
“We had talked about getting married, and I thought this would be just the right time to propose. So, I bought this $29 Tinkerbelle ring from a store in the park and ran the entire marathon with it tucked in my sock,” says Van, chuckling as he recalls the experience to me. “After we crossed the finish line together, I got down on one knee, pulled out the ring and proposed. She said, Yes, and we’ve never looked back!”
Since being married this past April, Van and Abbe have continued to raise money for causes important to them while always keeping one eye out for any symptoms of oncoming seizures. Last year, Van ran the Philadelphia Marathon for The Epilepsy Therapy Project and is set to run the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, PA next month in an effort to raise more money for seizure disorders.
Realizing how effective running for a cause can be, Van and Abbe have decided to take a more personal approach to the fundraising end of things by creating their own website where folks from all over the world can visit and donate at any time.
The website, created by Van, who is a website developer when he’s not pounding out the miles on the road, can be found at:
Check out the website for yourself and learn what you can do to help stamp out not only seizure disorders with The Epilepsy Therapy Project, but also blood cancers through the great work being done by The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Pheidippides, the man credited with running the first “marathon”, did so with the purpose of delivering the message of a Greek victory over the Persians at the Battle Of Marathon in 490 BCE. Upon the completion of his 26.2 mile run from Marathon to Greece, Pheidippides exclaimed to the magistrates, “Joy, we win!” and then promptly died on the spot. This was obviously the last of what must have been many runs for the fateful messenger. What we’re sure of, and what we as runners celebrate every time we run a marathon, is that he ran every run with a purpose.
As Van prepares to run to make the world a better place for his wife, Abbe and all those who suffer with similar conditions, won’t you take just a moment of your time and see how you can become a partner in this noble cause?
It’s my prayer that one day, Van and Abbe will be able to look one another in the eye after a cure for seizure disorders has been found and say, “Joy, we’ve won!”