John Ball Shares Highlights from TPLA 2015

We’re finally catching our breath after our Race Weekend at the 30th edition of the ASICS LA Marathon held last March 14-15.  We want to thank all our amazing 200  runners and walkers, cheerleaders and fundraisers. We succeeded in walking and running—and in fundraising as well as together we’ve raised over $95,000 and counting for Parkinson's research! Our fundraising for this event does not end until the end of April!  The weekend also resulted into a ton of memories, photos and stories!  Here’s a compilation from John Ball, our Co-Chair … read his reflection about how even challenges as a runner with Parkinson’s made it a successful Team Parkinson at the 2015 LA Marathon for him and all participants!

With Parkinson’s, as in the rest of life, there’s good days and bad days. But with PD, sometimes the worst days are really the best days. I’ve been reluctant to write this report because I feel like I let myself down a bit.  I train year-round to be ready for at least two major targets each year: the ASICS LA Marathon in March and the San Francisco Marathon in July.  Normally that works out well, with enough time to recover from one emotional and physical high point to begin to prepare for the next. Last July I surprised myself and ran a little better in San Francisco than I thought I could, so I was looking forward to pushing myself to run even better this spring in LA.  But it just didn’t happen that way.

Instead of building off the success in San Francisco, I found it increasingly difficult to run the long runs on the weekend…first my left knee started hurting, then I pulled a hamstring, followed by a couple of falls, tripping over a seam in the asphalt and getting caught up in a bush at the edge of the road.  Overall, I wasn’t doing too badly, thanks to consistent workouts with my trainer, Amber Peru, who keeps me working on my core strength, and eight weeks in a boxing class with my physical therapist, Didi Matthews, and several other people from the Parkinson’s community. The boxing class was fun and a chance to learn a whole new set of skills.  I’d recommend checking out any of the new Rock Steady Boxing programs that are springing up all across the country.  They are carefully designed for PD patients and care partners to maximize benefit without injury. I had also been able to attend almost all of the wonderful 5k training sessions Sarah Ingersoll of USC and Steve Mackel of Sole Runners put on for Team Parkinson at the Rose Bowl beginning in January and leading to the Big 5K at the LA Marathon. The average attendance was over 50 people at the training sessions each Thursday morning right up to race day on Saturday, March 14.

So I came to the ASICS LA Marathon with a mixed bag of expectations: good overall conditioning, but short on long distance running.  I decided to walk the 5k on Saturday and jog the first half of the marathon on Sunday with my training buddy, Mark Saxonberg, and then hand off to his son Jordan for the second half.  That is one privilege that Official Charity runners have at LA. It’s called the Charity Relay.  It seemed like a good plan.

While my marathon preparation was all about getting ready to run, Edna’s time and energy were spent helping others, and getting the team ready to participate. She attended all the Official Charity meetings, recruited participants and helped them register, helped people with fundraising, and answered a hundred questions a day it seemed. She also got the tee-shirts printed and boxed up for the expo. So while it may seem that I work hard to get ready to run, I must admit that the success of Team Parkinson rested more heavily on her shoulders than on mine.

When the race weekend finally arrived, everything was ready.  Race week, my sister, Kippi Stolz, flew in from Denver to help us set up the booth as she has done for many years, and on Friday, Carol Walton, head of The Parkinson Alliance, joined us. New to the team this year, Nessa Weinman also joined us in the booth on Friday and Saturday.  Traffic in the expo was good all day, and we talked with many old friends, current team members, and made several new friends who discovered us for the first time.

On Saturday morning early, nearly 130 members of Team Parkinson lined up for the 5k.  It was a beautiful morning, warm, but not uncomfortable. We took on the difficult 3.1 mile course and, as far as I know, everyone finished.  There were several team members who improved their performance over last year. I stuck to my plan and walked the course with my physical therapist, Didi Matthews. What could be nicer than a good walk with a close friend on a beautiful morning? We are proud of all our team members, but are especially proud of those who have raised their own expectations and improved their quality of life by setting this goal and working hard to achieve it.

Later that day, after wrapping up the two-day expo at the LA Convention Center with the help of Doug and Mimi MacGlashan, we held our annual carbo-load dinner at Taix’s French Restaurant on Sunset, perfectly organized by Susan Saxonberg  It was a warm and friendly affair with nearly 90 guests.  Carol, Edna, and I took a few moments to thank the many sponsors and friends of Team Parkinson who have made our success possible over the years, then handed the mic to Dr. Gal Bitan, a molecular biologist from UCLA who is working with a novel compound that promises to alter the treatment of Parkinson’s disease from symptomatic relief to disease modification. His presentation was truly inspiring, and was followed up with a Q and A session that was exceptional. Finally, Coach Steve Mackel gave some strategic advice to those planning to run the marathon the next morning: be aware and prepared for the heat. Temperature was predicted to be in the 90s by midday. The evening was dedicated to the memory of Dick Helfon, who died with Parkinson’s in 2014, and we were honored to have his wife Eva at the dinner.

Finally, on Sunday morning, it was time for the marathon.  Unfortunately, after a restless night and a serious bit of dystonia in my left foot, I decided to withdraw from the race. It was disappointing, but I was reassured by several members of my team that it was a good decision. Fortunately, the rest of the team was extremely successful, and I got to cheer for them at our cheering station on Ocean Avenue not far from the finish line. Team finishers included: Danielle Moody, 4:05:00, Becky Furnival, 4:12:33. Dr. Susie Ro, 4:26:07, Chain Lee, 4:27:45, Martha Simpson, 4:34:31, Vince Spottedcalf, 4:41:22,  Mark Saxonberg, 4:59:50,  Amanda Adams and Michael Bartholomew, 5:12:30, Steve Mackel, 6:04:42, and Elizabeth Moore, 7:46:28.  The relay team members included Jordan Saxonberg, Sara Saxonberg and Chris Quain, Rissa and Summer Jarrett, John and Dianna Jarrett, Doug and Mimi MacGlashan, Drew Petkus and Megan Gomez, and Thomas Whitmer.

Congratulations to all who participated. I’m happy it was not as hot as predicted, and everyone made it safely through to the finish.  So I guess one of my bad days turned into a very good day for all of us.

Now that the event is behind us, there remains but one task, and that is to finish the fundraising.  We had raised over $80,000 by the night of the carbo-load dinner, but now, with just a few days left until we close out the books on the event, we are at $95,389.  Thank you all.  Now, on to San Francisco!


John Ball

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