Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Marie and Ed Ferrell of Grayson are coaching the Nike Women's Marathon Half, Team In Training of Gwinnett County. The team who trains at the trails behind Suwanee Town Center is traveling to D.C. April 28 for the race, which benefits The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
SUWANEE -- In 2006, Marie Ferrell's life had changed in a matter of weeks. Her sister Julie lost her battle to leukemia and two weeks later, Ferrell signed up for a new chapter of her life: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society'sTeam In Training.
By 2007, she participated in a full marathon in Nashville and hasn't turned back since.
"For me, it saved my life," she said. "It gave me an incredible place to laugh, cry and make a difference -- do something for my sister instead of missing her."
Seven years later, she and her husband Ed still run, walk and now coach people for half and full marathons. The Grayson couple's latest team hit the streets of Washington, D.C., today as part of the Nike Women's Half Marathon.
"It's nice when we have the local events, but it's amazing to go to the national events," Ed said. "When you're out on the course and you see all the purple jerseys around you. When you're struggling, someone will say, 'Go team.'"
But it took their team of six several months to get ready to run and walk 13.1 miles for LLS. Marie is the walk coach, while Ed -- already an endurance runner with more than 160 races under his belt -- trains the runners on trails in Suwanee.
As coaches, the Ferrells aren't obligated to raise money for the races, but since they've joined TNT, the couple has raised about $20,000 for LLS.
The race participants need to raise at least $1,800 per race. The Gwinnett Chapter has raised more than $34,000 between the D.C. race and the Publix Georgia Marathon and Half Marathon in March.
Participants range from those who have seen the affects of this sort of cancer to those who have experienced it first hand, like Paul McElroy. He was diagnosed with leukemia in January 2008 and was told it wasn't severe enough for immediate treatment.
"I was told I had three to five years before I would get bad before needing treatment," the Suwanee resident said. "Things went bad quickly. After six months, I had to pick a chemo date and by April 2009 I was finished with chemo."
With that, his wife Mary and daughter Anna signed up to do the Nike Women's Half Marathon in San Francisco in the fall of 2009.
"They did the race, but I was too weak to train to do it," McElroy said.
He completed his first race in 2011. It was the Publix Half Marathon.
McElroy knows that he has a great possibility of relapsing, so he plans to continue fundraising for the cure until he has to go through another bout of treatment.
"It's something I will always worry about," he said. "There's a pretty good chance to relapse. I've got a disease that has no cure right now, so to raise money is more money in the pot for people like me."
The Ferrells also plan to fight for the cure, one dollar and one race at a time.
"I get to see every day where the money goes to. It's amazing to get to see it," Marie said. "One of the downsides is that you meet people who don't win the battle, but we will continue to fight. I really hope the cure is right around the corner. I'm going to keep (racing), unless they kick me out."
The next races the Gwinnett Chapter is training for include the Savannah Rock 'n' Roll Marathon and The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K.
To learn more about Team in Training, visit www.teamintraining.org.