Editor's Note: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For all you need to know about local efforts in Middletown, see our guide.
Middletown resident and longtime runner Mary Pat Schmitt, 45, is not the type to waste time with self-pity.
The director of financial planning and analysis at Stanley Black & Decker in New Britain has, for the past three years, trained with the Fleet Feet West Hartford half-marathon prep program.
After a January 2012 breast cancer diagnosis, former half-marathoner Schmitt resolved not to let breast cancer slow her down. Despite a double mastectomy and five rounds of chemotherapy, she continued to run.
These "runs," however, began at just five minutes in length.
To her credit, Schmitt will be a part of the ING Hartford Marathon Elite Inspiration Team (see pdf for all members) this Saturday at Bushnell Park.
It's not been a road without obstacles.
“I started off pretty slow for a while and then built up to a mile,” Schmitt says. She continued to exercise for two important reasons. “To start feeling like myself again and to show others, regardless of what obstacles are ahead of you, if you set these goals for yourself, you’re going to be able to go after them and get them.”
That’s not to say regaining her athletic ability was without difficulty. “It’s not an easy task at all,” Schmitt says. “In the beginning, in terms of trying to get there, you’re tired from treatment, you lost aerobic training you had previously.”
Still, she says, “if I knew that it hurt, it meant that I was alive and pushing toward the next step.”
Schmitt, who admits she’s the type of person who relies heavily on her support system, immediately told her husband Peter, then updated her family and friends with the news. Throughout the months, she finally created an email distribution list — a lifeline of sorts — where she’d share how she was faring and get encouraging emails in return.
Once she was ready to get back on the road, Schmitt was very methodical in planning her training. Focusing on something tangible during often harrowing chemo treatment allowed Schmitt to keep that goal as a touchstone.
“I knew my surgery was on March 12 and my chemo treatment started April 12,” she says. “I knew that no matter what I was going to be a part of the Komen Race for the Cure in June.”
Just three months after her surgery, she completed the 3.1-mile race in Hartford, raising $4,500 for breast cancer research along the way.
This year, still undergoing some treatment which will finish up early next year, Schmitt will run in the ING Hartford Marathon as a relay with her husband Peter, family and friends.
She’s learned a lot from the journey. “As long as you set your mind to it, you can set goals and go after them, no matter how big or how small,” Schmitt shares.
Her husband, sister-in-law Jade Kelly, and two friends, met through the Fleet Feet training program, Laura Post and Alexa Pazniokas, will help her in the ING Hartford Marathon relay.
She’ll be running the last leg — 5.7 miles. Schmitt says she’s ready and confident she can do it. Just this past Saturday, she ran six and a half miles through the streets of Middletown in preparation.
The ING Hartford Marathon's Elite Inspiration Team was created to recognize the many inspiring personalities and personal stories of people who have overcome obstacles and hardships or who have made an impact on the community around them.
Also among the 10 honorees is Sarah Claffey, Middletown’s Macdonough School fourth-grade teacher. In 2009, Claffey ran the ING Hartford Half Marathon on a whim.
The school planned to have a few teachers run the course, picking up and dropping off students and colleagues at designated mile marks along the way. Despite having never run a road race before, Claffey completed the 13.1 mile course and along the way discovered her new passion: fitness.
She serves as a role model for her school’s community and many students, parents and teachers regularly participate in road races. Led by Claffey, Macdonough’s student running club will participate in the ING Hartford Marathon programs and will cheer her on as she completes her first marathon.
You can cheer both Schmitt and Claffey on this Saturday at the ING Hartford Marathon, Half Marathon & 5K on Oct. 13 in Bushnell Park, Hartford.