Georgia runner wants to raise awareness for Angelman Syndrome
Every runner at the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship has a story to tell. Every one of them runs with passion and purpose.
Some stories are more telling than others; some runners have a deeper passion and greater purpose.
Deanna McCurdy is one of them. The 39-year-old mother of two from Peachtree City, Georgia, will make the trip to Utah to compete in the XTERRA Trail Run Nationals for the first time. This year's race is scheduled for September 22 at Snowbasin Resort near Ogden, Utah, and it will draw approximately 700 runners from at least 30 different states.
McCurdy is the founder and head coach of Team Miles for Smiles, a charity running team that raises funding for research through the Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics (F.A.S.T.). She started the team after her youngest daughter (now 5 years old) was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome in 2009.
McCurdy also happens to be a fast runner. She placed first overall at the XTERRA Deep South Trail Run 15K in May. Here is a recent interview with her:
Q: I know you did the last race in the Georgia Trail Run Series, but did winning that race become the deciding factor in you booking the trip to Utah, or were there other factors involved?
McCurdy: I have always considered myself a trail runner and have been fortunate to take top honors at many of the trail races I have ever entered, but over the past few years, my focus has been more road running and triathlon. I signed up for XTERRA Deep South 15K, honestly, as a way to have a "date" with my husband and to get back in touch with what makes me me. The plan was that I would run the trail race, then he and I were going to mountain bike on the trails after the race was over. Being out on the trails reminded me how much my whole body, heart and mind loves the feeling of dirt beneath my feet, surrounded by the sights, smells, and feel of nature. Ever since that race, I have craved to get back on the trails, to challenge myself on the climbs, fly through the descents, and leave the pavement behind. The race reignited a fire to want to run hard on the trails and to push myself beyond my own limitations with people who share the same feeling as me. I am so fortunate that things worked out in terms of childcare, travel, and being able to stay in Ogden with friends who are competing in the XTERRA Championships as well, so I can have the opportunity to race out in Utah at Nationals.
Five years ago when our daughter was born, the world that we knew and dreams that we had were turned upside down. However, because of the birth of that little girl, I don't tell myself "some day I will do this or accomplish that." I realize that I don't know what "some day" will have in store for us so if the opportunity presents itself, jump at it. I cannot wait to play on the gorgeous, Snowbasin trails with some of the most talented trail runners in the United States at the XTERRA Trail Run National Championships. Winning XTERRA Deep South was just a bonus to an already perfect "date."
Q: How have you been preparing specifically for this race, in particular the altitude?
McCurdy: In the South, we battle months of thick, hot, humid air. This past July, our family took a vacation out to Colorado and I was surprised at how dealing with altitude out there didn't affect my body as much as I feared. I met up with a fellow Angelman mom during our trip who is an incredible ultra-runner. She took me out on the trails, each day climbing to higher elevations than the day before. I think I was just so overjoyed with running without spider webs and mosquitoes attacking me, battling the humidity, and being able to swap stories about the crazy little special needs world that we both live in, that I didn't really notice the lack of oxygen at higher altitudes. Plus, the views once we reached the top of our climbs were unbelievably breathtaking, making any struggles I might have experienced on the way up worthwhile.
After returning to Georgia from vacation, I have sought out the longest hills I can find locally which tend to be only about 400 yards and run repeats up and down them over. I have a particular love/hate relationship with a Conrad Stoltz workout posted by Cody Waite, XTERRA Pro, in a recent issue of XTERRA Tribe News which involves a series of 1:30 hill repeats, followed with a short tempo run, then :30 second hill repeats and a final short tempo run (honestly, I can never make it through the 2nd tempo run -I blame it on the Georgia humidity- haha!).
Q: Will you be wearing any special logos, jerseys, pins, etc., during the race to display Miles For Smiles?
McCurdy: Both my husband, David, and I will be sporting bright blue Miles for Smiles tank tops on the course. I wear a blue reminder bracelet and a friendship bracelet as well to remind me when the going gets tough of what is really important. The blue bracelet is for all the children with Angelman Syndrome. It represents why we keep getting out there each day to push ourselves with our own goals, hoping to raise awareness for this rare condition and inspire others along the way. I read a quote once that has become my mantra, "I run because I can. When I get tired I remember all of those who can't run and what they would give to have this simple gift I take for granted and I run harder for them. I know they would do the same for me." My 8 year old daughter made me the friendship bracelet last year before the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. I have not taken it off since. Her belief in me always renews my energy and makes me smile.
Q: What would be your running goal for this race, perhaps in terms of placing, or time, etc.?
McCurdy: I have trained really hard this past summer for the XTERRA Trail Run National Championships, but the reality is that not only do I live on the East Coast, but I live hours from the closest mountains. I joke around with the guys that I run with, saying that my goal is to not finish last in my age group at the race. This race attracts some pretty incredible talent from around the country, especially from the Rockies, where training at altitude and climbing for hours uphill is part of a lifestyle. I am just honored to have the opportunity to toe the start line with such a high caliber trail running community and hopefully, finish strong (and not last!) with a smile on my face.
Q: What would be your other goals for this race, particularly in regards to raising awareness for Angelman Syndrome?
McCurdy: Angelman Syndrome is a rare disorder, affecting only about 1 in every 15,000 children. However, it is often misdiagnosed as autism or cerebral palsy, which makes us believe more children might actually have the condition than currently diagnosed. While characteristics such as seizures, lack of speech, cognitive and gross motor delays, sleep issues and processing disorders sound devastating to a family dealing with the diagnosis, there is so much hope for children with this condition. Not only was Angelman Syndrome cured in a mouse model a mere 5 years ago, in the past year, researchers conducted the first human clinical trial of an FDA approved drug using children with Angelman Syndrome. We, the parents and families who have children with Angelman Syndrome, live each day in hope that it is not a distant dream of "if" our children will be cured, but merely a matter of "when." It is truly inspiring to watch people involved with the foundation we support, the Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics, use their talents to come together to help raise awareness as well as fund research to cure AS. I have been blessed to have the ability to run. Hopefully my running will serve as a way to not only educate others about this condition, but also inspire people who might feel that life hasn't turned out the way they thought it would be and have given up on setting wild and crazy dreams. I certainly never imagined I would be where I am today, doing what I truly love, for something and someone much greater than myself. I am so thankful for this gift and opportunity to "Live More" as they say in XTERRA.