Triumph and Teamwork

By Rob Banaszak on October 11, 2012 in Team To End AIDS

By Rob Banaszak, Communications Director, AIDS United

Picture this…Chicago…October 7, 2012. The weather is brisk and chilly but the autumn day is crisp and lovely. More than 40,000 runners are in their “corrals,” jumping up and down, stretching, chatting, praying — all anxiously awaiting the moment when they will begin to run. And run and run and run. 26.2 miles.

The Chicago Marathon.

The clock starts and the runners are off! A sea of neon headbands and jackets and tank tops and tights and shoes, all moving to the hypnotic beat of rubber shoes hitting the pavement like a metronome. Pum pum pum pum pum pum pum.

Forty five thousand runners, weaving through skyscrapers one moment, then 30 minutes later a tree-lined park, then 30 minutes after that, wonderful neighborhoods, like Lincoln Park, and Wrigleyville, and Boystown, and Greektown and Chinatown…then snaking back into the gleaming city…

People lining the streets cheering with posters and shouts of encouragement and water and Gatorade and bananas and vaseline (non-runners must imagine for themselves what that might be for).

The energy. The determination. The exhilaration. The triumph!

And the triumph was more than just about my running results (which had significantly improved since my first marathon last year!).  The triumph also was a victory in the fight for an AIDS-free America. You see, I have run my first two marathons as part of AIDS United’s Team to End AIDS program, an endurance training program that raises awareness of the HIV epidemic in the United States by raising funds to support life-saving HIV/AIDS prevention and care programs across the country.

As a participant in the Team to End AIDS Program (or T2 as we affectionately call it at AIDS United), I not only had to commit to the training program that would lead me to the promised land of marathon-finishing, but also had to commit to raising funds to support the work of AIDS United, which is not only my employer but is also an organization near and dear to my heart. I am one of nearly 300 people who trained to run in one of several marathons or triathlons, and who also collectively raised more than thousands of dollars to help end AIDS in the United States.

When we raised money for our sponsorships, we raised awareness about HIV in our country with the generous family and friends who supported us.

When we trained wearing our T2 training gear throughout the summer we raised awareness about HIV with all those we encountered on the streets and running trails.

While we wore our special running tank tops that were created just for our marathon events, we raised awareness about HIV with our fellow runners and with all who stood on the sidelines cheering us on.

Team to End AIDS is truly that — a team. But we who have worked so hard to train for our respective events have become much more than that. We have become a family. We support each other, we encourage each other, we push each other, and we celebrate each other.

With that kind of teamwork, we can — and we will — end AIDS in America.

And that’s the team I want to be on!

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