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Runners go the distance in memory of Linda Decker

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RONAN — So many circles, so little time.

A group of dedicated runners decided to end the year by running a whole bunch of circles — 288 of them, actually. 

The 13 runners teamed up in a marathon relay at the Ronan Middle School running track to raise more than $1,000 that will benefit Myotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) research. Current and former members of the Ronan cross country team organized the relay in memory of Linda Decker, the wife of cross country coach Gale Decker who passed away from ALS on Oct. 23.

The 26-mile, 385-yard marathon equated to 288 and one-third laps around the top-deck running track inside the Ronan Event Center. The group started the run at 5 p.m. on Dec. 31 and finished in 2 hours, 59.57 seconds. 

"We'd talked about trying to beat the world record (of 2:03.59), but we were a little off that," Noelle Decker laughed. "But we had a lot of fun."

The group ran two or three laps in succession before handing off the relay baton to the next runner. Eleven laps around the track equated to a mile, so everyone ran about two miles total, or 22.1 laps. 

On the last 13 individual laps, everyone ran as fast as they could. Abby Luke finished the individual runs in the next-to-the-last lap, then everyone ran the final lap as a group. 

The donations had topped $1,000 by Monday, which will go to the Blazeman Foundation in memory of Linda Decker. Jonathan "Blazeman" Blais was a triathlete who succumbed to ALS in 2007. The foundation in his name raises money for cutting-edge research toward finding a cure for ALS.

ALS, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a progressive degenerative disease that attacks the motor neurons, or nerve cells, in the brain and spinal cord. Motor neurons control the movement of voluntary muscles. Death of the motor neurons makes it impossible for the brain to control muscles or signal them to move. As the muscles atrophy, it results in weakness and loss of coordination. 

ALS is unpreventable, untreatable and incurable. ALS attacks otherwise healthy adults randomly and spontaneously. Once diagnosed, people with ALS have an average life expectancy of two to five years.

Linda Decker was 61 when she lost her own battle with ALS on Oct. 23 of last year. For years she supported her children and grandchildren, who competed in a number of athletic endeavors that included running on the Ronan cross country team. 

"She didn't play a lot of sports, but she was more of a cheerleader for all of us. She was very, very active, walked a lot, and was very much a large part of ours and the grandkids' athletic careers," Noelle explained. "Our thanks go out to all the people who showed up and contributed. We had a very good time and it felt good to be doing something worthwhile."


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