BTN LiveBIG: Iowa Dance Marathon students keep on moving for children’s cancer

BTN LiveBIG: Iowa Dance Marathon students keep on moving for children’s cancer

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“It’s a really great experience being able to run a marathon, but when you’re doing it for something even bigger than yourself, it’s a rewarding feeling.”

Those are the words of University of Iowa senior Natalie Northup, logistics chair for Dance Marathon the Marathon (DMM).

DMM is a branch of the University of Iowa Dance Marathon, a student organization that raises money to provide support for pediatric cancer patients receiving treatment at the university’s Children’s Hospital.

The Dance Marathon organizes fundraising efforts year-round, but its “Big Event,” which takes place a week from today, is its flagship fundraiser. The annual 24-hour, no-caffeine, no-sitting, no-sleeping dance party has raised more than $14 million since its inception in 1994 and attracted over 2,000 participants last year.

DMM, as an extension of Dance Marathon, provides a unique opportunity for those who wish to raise money for the cause and challenge themselves in another way — by running 26.2 miles through the streets of Chicago.

Northup was one of those individuals, as was Alex Alwine, a University of Iowa junior. Now the coaching and recruitment chair for DMM, Alwine ran the Bank of America Chicago Marathon during his sophomore year. Alwine had never run more than a 5K prior to that, but he successfully completed the distance and got hooked on both running and DMM.

“I was never really a runner, but I got inspired by one of my friends to do it, and I loved every second of it,” Alwine said. “Now, just being able to do that for runners who think they can’t run a marathon … it’s so rewarding to see.”

Northup and Alwine worked together to create a perfect race-day experience for DMM runners. Northup worked directly with Chicago Marathon representatives to coordinate logistics, and Alwine set up group training runs and assisted the team with fundraising efforts.

Each of DMM’s 189 team members was required to raise $1,000 for the cause. The funds will go toward various types of patient and family support — whether it’s hospital expenses, wigs, activities for siblings or even parking passes, Dance Marathon and DMM aim to provide support wherever it may be needed.

Unable to participate in the Chicago Marathon due to their on-site logistical roles in Chicago, Northup and Alwine still attended the majority of DMM’s training runs over the summer. Runners themselves, they embody the term “lead by example.”

“We trained alongside our runners and told them, ‘If we can do this, so can you,’ to try and give them more of that support,” Northup said.

Luckily, their training didn’t go to waste. Both Alwine and Northup ran the Des Moines Marathon the very next week on Oct. 19.

“The most rewarding part is getting to see other people run for the kids like I have gotten to do in years past,” Northup said. “Sometimes you get to low points in the marathon, but just being able to look at your jersey and know that you’re running for someone who isn’t able to do this, but they’re fighting something so much worse every day — it’s a really good experience.”

By Laura Depta

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