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Marathon running for Leukemia victims

Posted: December 30, 2008 10:24 p.m.
Updated: December 31, 2008 4:55 a.m.

Twenty-nine-year-old Tracy McKinney in training to run her first marathon.

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Marathon runner Tracy McKinney, of Saugus, baked old-style Norwegian butter cookies for four hours this holiday season. This was the first year the 29-year-old took up the long-standing family tradition passed down from her beloved great aunt Betty just before the elderly cancer patient died in July.

After McKinney's first year with her great-aunt's 30-year-old cookie press and strange flour-and-butter recipe, she was exhausted.

But McKinney didn't mind. She believes in the preservation of life. Tradition is valuable and hard work is worth the effort because it means she can help preserve someone else's memory.

"She was like a second grandmother to me," she said. "She was my grandmother's sister. My mother was an only child and my aunt Betty didn't have children. So we were her grandchildren and we were very close."

Aunt Betty was an enormous part of McKinney's life and honoring her memory came naturally.

So McKinney, despite her asthma, along with her big sister Erin, 29, of San Diego, decided to run marathons with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training to raise money for cancer research.

The group uses professional athletes to train participants to run or walk marathons, half marathons, 100-mile bike rides or triathlons.

In exchange, athlete participants run races to raise money to help find a cure for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma.

For McKinney, this is a relatively new experience. She ran her first half marathon at Florida's Disneyworld in 2008, and she will run her first marathon at Aneheim's Disneyland Jan. 11.

Still only halfway to her goal of raising $1,500, McKinney needs to find about $800 in donations before Jan. 6.

The economic downturn has affected her ability to raise needed funds, she said. But the spunky runner is undeterred by the challenge and keeps plodding away, training on the streets of Santa Clarita.

"I have sports-induced asthma so I have to make sure I am breathing right," she said. "I change my route as much as possible so I don't get bored."

Step over step, McKinney increases her movement and stamina in preparation of her goal: To honor the marathon fight that cancer victims face every day.

When her race is over, McKinney can rest and recover, but she knows there are lots of men, women and children whose recovery will never arrive.

So for her aunt Betty and others with cancer, McKinney continues to press on.

More information on how to make a donation, visit http://pages.teamintraining.org/sd/wdw09/tmckinndtv.

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