Midvale resident completes NYC Marathon, raises money for charityFeb 03, 2022 03:28PM ● By Sarah Morton Taggart
Morgan McLeod raced in the TCS NYC Marathon 2021 as a charity bib runner for Girls on the Run. (Photo courtesy Morgan McLeod)
By Sarah Morton Taggart | [email protected]
Physical activity can benefit the body, the brain and sometimes even a charitable cause.
Late last year, Midvale resident Morgan McLeod raised $4,615 for Girls on the Run, an organization dear to her heart.
McLeod began running when she was in college after learning that she had thyroid cancer.
“It was a way for me to kind of deal with the stresses of college and being diagnosed,” McLeod said. “It’s a space where I’m not competing against anyone, it’s just myself.”
But running does not have to be a solitary pursuit. McLeod invited her sister to run the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. with her.
“It was such an impactful race,” McLeod said. “Just to see veterans and amputees running past. That’s when I was like, wow—this space can be so inspirational.”
A few years later, McLeod began raising money for the Livestrong Foundation. Runners can raise money for charities through race registration fees and asking friends and family to pledge a dollar amount per race or distances they run.
“It’s a personal goal, but I’m also making a difference with miles,” McLeod said. “I love that idea.”
In 2020, McLeod began coaching for Girls on the Run.
“Their mission is to work with girls in elementary school and middle school to equip and empower them to be the best version of themselves,” McLeod said. “Studies have shown that around that time, that’s when bullying starts. That’s when issues of self-esteem start.”
The after-school program emphasizes the connection between physical and emotional health.
“For example, one week you might be talking about the importance of friendships and the next week we’re talking about confidence,” McLeod said. “At the end of the season they run this 5K race that’s the culmination of everything they’ve learned, and tackling this goal that a lot of them don’t think they can do.”
McLeod lived in Virginia when she started coaching, and it was something she sought out when she and her husband moved to Midvale in March 2021.
“I didn’t know anyone,” McLeod said. “It’s just me and the dog during the day, so I need some sort of social interaction.”
McLeod began coaching at East Sandy Elementary in September.
Around that time, she learned that Girls on the Run NYC was recruiting volunteers to raise money through the TCS New York City Marathon on Nov. 7. To participate in the NYC Marathon, runners need to prove they can complete the 26-mile race within a set amount of time for their age group—or commit to raising money for a participating charity.
McLeod set a personal goal to raise $5,000 for Girls on the Run NYC and came close to reaching it. Working together, she and 43 other runners raised over $100,000 for the organization. The money will go toward operational costs and direct support for participants.
“It was a great collaboration of two of my favorite things,” McLeod said. “Running, and this charity I had fallen in love with and these girls that inspired me.”
This was McLeod’s first time traveling a long distance to race. Her husband and parents were there to cheer her on, but she planned to run solo in the crowd of more than 25,000 participants.
“Midway through the race, another woman that had been fundraising saw that I had the Girls on the Run bib and ran with me for probably five miles,” McLeod said. “It (the marathon) was a struggle, so having her run with me was a really special experience and a cool surprise I wasn’t expecting.”
One week later, McLeod became a last-minute running buddy for one of the girls she had coached. The girl’s father had torn a quad muscle, so McLeod stepped in and ran with her instead.
All 13 girls McLeod coached completed the 10-week program.
“Before the 5K I brought my medal and showed the girls,” McLeod said. “I said coach Mo did the marathon. You guys can do the 5K.”
Now cancer-free for 10 years, McLeod believes anyone can start running. She recommends having a good training plan and running with a group, if possible.
“People tell me, ‘Oh, I could never do that,’” McLeod said. “You can. You just have to start somewhere and start slow.”