The 2018 ACE Marathon: A Recap from Atlanta
Awake. Sleep is overrated. Have nothing to do in morning anyway…except run a half marathon. Literally.
Pep talk fails. Darkness. Stillness. Excitement. Nerves. Alarm set for 4:15 a.m.
Ignore alarm. Get out of bed instead. Shower with reasonable belief in its energizing effects.
Get dressed. Set clothes out last night after consulting with other runners as to what they will be wearing: the t-shirt given by the marathon, running shorts, ankle socks, and my running sneakers. Good ones that I bought about a month ago from a running store in Atlanta.
Pack a bag. Contents: dry shirt for afterward, deodorant, extra water bottles, arm band.
Breakfast: banana and granola bar.
Leave for downtown Atlanta and the 2018 Publix Georgia Marathon.
Begin half marathon.
Cross the finish line!
“Exercise is an outlet for me, a de-stressor, but I wouldn’t consider myself a runner,” explains Christina Mirarchi (ACE 23, Atlanta).
You might be inclined to believe her, except that this ACE Teaching Fellow of seventh- and eighth-grade science, math, and religion recently recovered from double pneumonia and just finished 13.1 miles of the 2018 ACE Marathon in 02:17:03, a feat she insists she couldn’t have accomplished without the support of her housemates, her good friend Katie Heussman (ACE 23, LA) who ran alongside her, and all the people cheering them on along the route.
Their singular goal? The well-being of the children at St. Peter Claver Catholic School.
Since 2001, ACE Teachers, Remick Leaders, ACE graduates, and friends have joined together to draw attention to—and raise money for—the continuing work of Catholic schools. In its 17th year, the ACE Marathon traveled south. “It was definitely a very, very big event. This was the first time it was hosted in Atlanta, and the first time that it was hosted at our school,” says Christina.
Each year, ACE picks an existing marathon in a city that has ACE teachers. This year St. Peter Claver Regional Catholic School in Decatur, Georgia, was chosen. The need is tangible, explains Christina. “We have a very small staff and our grade levels are combined. Our population of 119 students is very diverse. Eighty to 90 percent receive some sort of financial assistance. One-third are refugees from Asian countries, including Myanmar, Burma, and Thailand. Over half the school are English language learners, which means they don’t speak English as their first language or their parents don’t speak it either.”
Funds raised will help provide much needed classroom materials and supplies, updated technology, and resources for teaching English language learners. But this year there is a special cause, too. Children playing outdoors may seem like a given, but at St. Peter Claver it’s a luxury.
“Our school has been fundraising for years now to build what we call our ‘Track and Field of Dreams’,” says Christina. That may be a clever play on words, but this is no joke. She says, “We run around the church parking lot. We have a very large lawn, except it’s uneven and filled with ant hills and divots.” It sounds funny to say the parking lot during active carpool pick-up times is better than the lawn, but it’s true. “The moderators are there and the older kids look after the younger ones, but it’s not the safest,” Christina says.
The Marathon gives them hope. Christina recalls, “The students were very excited. They wrote letters to all runners—and even spectators—who were coming. The whole school made posters and little decorated (runner’s) bibs.”
Weeks of organization and preparation paid off: Marathon weekend arrives. The race is Sunday, March 18, but the night before holds much activity. Not only is it St. Patrick’s Day, but as Christina says, “It’s a tradition the night before the marathon to have a pasta dinner at the school so that everyone can see the school the donations are benefiting. A Saturday night mass, followed by a pasta party!” Fr. Lou DelFra, CSC, concelebrated with Fr. Bryan Small, the pastor of the Sts. Peter and Paul parish, and Shayla Rumley generously sponsored the dinner. It was a great group. “All spectators and runners, ACE teachers in Atlanta and their principals, ND Club of Atlanta, the Notre Dame community was there to support each other,” reports Christina.
The next morning comes early and these brave current ACErs participate in the 2018 Publix Georgia marathon, half-marathon and 5K:
- Jack Assaf
- Dan Brndjar
- Ray Lewis
- Alex Nunnelly
- Kristen Ochs
- Zach Traynor
- Eric Adjei-Danquah
- Grace Choe
- Nick Denari
- Katherine Lumetta
- Katie Heussman
- Molly Howell
- Helen Maduka
- Ryan McKinley
- Christina Mirarchi
- Seamus Power
- Seamus Ronan
- Catherine Wagner
- Fletcher Williams
- Yaa Dankwa
Nick Denari (ACE 23, DC) ran the half marathon and placed an impressive second overall. And what of Phil Autrey (ACE 2, Charlotte) who rarely misses an ACE Marathon? He was there! “This was my 11th consecutive ACE marathon. I enjoy staying connected to ACE, meeting some of the current teachers and being inspired by what ACE continues to do to benefit Catholic education,” Phil says. He attended the school Mass, the pasta dinner, and ran the half marathon. He enjoys touching base with some of his ACE classmates and vows, “One of these years I will convince some of them to join me. I would recommend alumni to join the ACE teachers. It’s a great weekend, and I’m so glad that ACE continues this tradition.”
And in a twist of long-distance running irony, after weeks of training: running, swimming, and kickboxing after school and on weekends, the race is over. Christina says, “I think there’s definitely a sense of accomplishment. It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s something that you train, practice, and work for and then you can see the results. In teaching you don’t always see those results right away.” Christina reflects on housemate, Dan Brndjar’s (ACE 23, Atlanta) blog, about working hard, doing difficult things, and having it be worth it in the end. She laughs, “During the race when there’s a difficult hill—and there were many, many hills—because Atlanta is very hilly . . . thinking about the kids and what they go through, what they’re dealing with at home and at school . . . and if they can do that then I can run this race. I was doing it for them.”
The experience gave St. Peter Claver some beneficial publicity. Christina says, “People are learning about the school and what we do . . . it’s awesome. It was great seeing everyone here and seeing it all come together in the end.” She adds, “It’s for the kids. They were so excited to hear about it and see the pictures. They made a thank you video. We were blessed to have this opportunity here at our school.”
Donations are still being gratefully accepted.