Running for ‘Mom’ and Alzheimer’s Research

Would you run 100 miles to honor a loved one?

Cynthia and mom alzheimers

When Cynthia Ganey’s mother, Diane Snyder, passed away in 2012 following a 12-year struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, Mrs. Ganey was heartbroken.

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“My mom was the most beautiful, strong, generous and loving woman I have ever known,” she says.

To pay tribute to her mother’s memory, she began thinking about running an ultra marathon, which is any race longer than the traditional 26.2 mile marathon. Cynthia decided to complete a 100-mile race and raise funds to support Alzheimer’s research at Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

“I needed to do something bigger than I’d ever done before to raise money in memory of my mom,” she says.

Helping others raise money for Alzheimer’s research, other causes

Though Cynthia has been running marathons and half marathons to raise money for charities for nearly a decade, running for philanthropic causes has become more than a passion for her; it inspired her to partner with a race management company whose mission is to encourage people to run and walk for health and adventure.

She started a training group dedicated to helping others train for running and walking events. And it’s through her company that she first learned of Cleveland Clinic’s personal fundraising pages.

Cynthia decided the easiest way for her family and friends to support her efforts would be to create her own personal fundraising page through Cleveland Clinic’s website.

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“Once the page was set up, I sent emails to everyone I know and posted it on Facebook,” Cynthia says. “Everyone was very encouraging and supportive. They thought it was a wonderful thing to do for my mom and a great way to remember her.”

Less than four weeks after creating her personal fundraising page, Cynthia had far surpassed her goal of $2,500 — raising more than $4,200.

Running 100 miles in 46 hours

Cynthia and her husband traveled to Phoenix, AZ, for the race.

“It took me 46 hours to finish 100 miles,” says Cynthia. “My goal was 36 hours, but I got blisters and had shin and iliotibial band problems early on around mile 35, which slowed my pace substantially.” The iliotibial band stabilizes the knee during running and often becomes inflamed and painful.

She ran the course steadily over two days, catching brief catnaps along the side of the course and stopping briefly to fuel her body with food.

“It’s all in your head,” she says. “You have to go into this kind of race telling yourself that you’re not going to stop, no matter how much pain you’re in. Every step I took was for my mom.”

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Advocating for brain health

Though the ultra marathon is behind her, Cynthia’s efforts to support Alzheimer’s research continue. One of the signature events in her race management company is “Moms Rock! 10K/5K/1 Mile Fun Walk” — a one-mile fun walk, 5K or 10K race which is held annually the day before Mother’s Day. Proceeds benefit Keep Memory Alive, an organization that raises awareness and funds in support of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and its work toward enhanced treatments of and research into neurocognitive disorders.

Reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s with exercise

In addition to raising money for Alzheimer’s research, Cynthia will keep running. Research has shown that physically active people at risk for Alzheimer’s demonstrate greater degrees of brain activity than those who were relatively inactive.

“Both of my biological grandmothers had Alzheimer’s too, so our family does have a strong history,” says Cynthia. “I have two daughters, a son and a grandson, so it’s definitely one of the reasons I keep running.”

Pictured in photo: Cynthia Ganey, her mother, daughter and grandson.

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