NORWALK, Conn. Like many people, Tricia Buffardi started running to lose weight. Four years later, she's not only dropped pounds, but has also raised money for a good cause.
Buffardi is one of the purple-clad Team In Training runners who participate in marathons and other long-distance events to raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. On Sunday, she'll join thousands of others for a running tour of the nation's capital in the Marine Corps Marathon, her fourth 26-miler.
"When I first started, a friend of mine convinced me to run the Hartford Half Marathon," she recalled. "It was great my longest training run was eight miles, I ate Jelly Beans during the race, and I broke two hours. But I said I could never do a full marathon."
Not long after that, she joined up with Team In Training, in part because the fathers of two of her friends were diagnosed with leukemia. After a summer of training with TNT coach Mike Ambrosecchio, she tackled her first marathon, the Nike Women's in San Francisco. In spite of climbing many of that city's fearsome hills, she was ready, thanks to the many hill repeats she had done that summer.
After a six-month break, the marathoning bug bit again, and she ran the biggest one in the world, the ING New York City Marathon in November 2009. "I loved it," she said of her 4:04 effort there. Her next one the following June was perhaps the antithesis of New York's urban course: the Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage.
"It was the hardest race I've ever run," Buffardi said. "Fifteen miles were on military training trails, full of big rocks. My quads were on fire by 21 miles. But the scenery was amazing." With only 1,500 runners, she was often running by herself in the Alaskan wilderness. "It got lonely at times. But that's when you have to tune in and get through it."
Buffardi tries to instill that same mental strength in the students in her classes at Punch Kettlebell Gym in Norwalk, where she teaches several classes a week.
For Marine Corps, her goal is to better her New York time, then regroup for her next one in 2012. "I'll be 40 next year, so I want to go back to Nike again and see how much I've improved in four years," she said. Buffardi, who has raised nearly $10,000 through TNT, now advises new runners in the program on how to train and fundraise.
"The running community is full of so many amazing people," she said. "Through running, I've met friends for life."
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