For those who do not know, I have been a supporter of the Blazeman Foundation for several years. The proceeds from the Greater Hartford 1/4 Marathon have gone to the Blazeman Foundation every year since 2008 and I do my best to spread the Blazeman Spirit wherever I go. The number 179 has special significance to Blazeman warriors, as it is the number Jon Blais wore it when he completed Kona in 2005 (if you have never watched, you need to see this video).
Challenge Atlantic City, taking place on June 29, 2014, is asking for submissions from individuals who would like to wear Jon’s number for the race. Jon’s mom encouraged me to apply and below is my submission.
First, I want to thank you for the opportunity to apply to wear the number 179 at the inaugural Challenge Atlantic City. I am a long time supporter of the Blazeman Foundation and a huge advocate for the diversification of races at 140.6 distance, so it would truly be an honor if I was selected to wear Jon’s number for the first Challenge Family race in the United States.
I first became aware of Jon’s story during the winter of 2007 while sitting on my trainer. Trying to pass the hours on the bike I watched and re-watched the Kona broadcasts from 2005 and 2006. I couldn’t stop myself from sitting on the bike and crying as I watched Jon cross the finish line in 2005 and then come back to Kona in 2006 in a wheelchair to cheer on Brian Breen. At that point I knew I had to do something, anything for this man and for his legacy. The previous year I had founded and race directed a small race in Connecticut. After watching Jon I decided that the race should be dedicated to his memory and all funds raised should benefit the Blazeman Foundation. Seven years later the Greater Hartford 1/4 Marathon has grown to a sell out crowd of 600 runners and has raised over $25,000 for the Blazeman Foundation. By the time the gun goes off for the start of Challenge Atlantic City, that number should be well over $30,000. Like Challenge Atlantic City, the 1/4 Marathon seeks to both raise funds and promote awareness about ALS. Each year the race selects a runner to wear the number 179. In addition, Jon’s father, Robert Blais, and sister, Jen Murphy, attend the race and speak to the runners about Jon and ALS before the awards ceremony. By the end of their talk there is not a dry eye in the house.
In addition to the 1/4 Marathon, it is also my personal mission to raise awareness about the disease. After watching Jon’s gutsy performances in both 2005 and 2006, I realized here is a disease that is indiscriminate in who it effects and is quickly devastating no matter the victim. Despite the indiscriminate and devastating nature of the disease there is only limited on-going research and public awareness (although that is changing thanks to Blazeman Foundation). Not only do I undertake the traditional “Blazeman roll” when crossing the finish line, I have also made the decision to include the number “179” on the kits for my coaching and race directing company, Sonic Endurance, to help spread awareness. Even if our athletes aren’t wearing 179 on their bibs, they’ll always be carrying the number and Jon’s memory and mission with them as they race.
I know you will receive many applications to wear the number 179 at Challenge Atlantic City, regardless of who you pick, I will be racing on June 29, 2014 with Jon’s spirit. Thank you for your consideration.
Kelly Burns Gallagher