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Daughter runs NYC Marathon in honor of her late father

PHOTO PROVIDED Meridith Wentz, wearing the medal, stands with “Team Wentz” after the New York City Marathon in early November. Meridith ran the marathon to raise money for the fight against ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. With Meridith are, from left, Lock Haven residents Bob and Dawn Ammerman; Meridith’s mom and Dawn’s sister, Karen Wentz; her brother Matthew Wentz and Leah Cellar, Matt’s girlfriend.

(Editor’s Note: Readers of The Express will recall a story last June about Meridith Wentz’ journey to raise money in the fight against ALS in honor of her father, the late Jan Wentz, a Lock Haven native. The story below is a follow-up to that piece and describes Meridith’s experience in the New York City Marathon.)

By MERIDITH WENTZ

When I decided to apply to run in the New York City marathon for Team ALS TDI (ALS Therapy Development Institute), I figured it would be a once in a lifetime event.

Before I started training for the marathon, I had never run more than 13.1 miles, had never done any fundraising and had never really seen New York City.

I wasn’t sure that I could even run 26.2 miles, but a marathon was something that I’d been wanting to try.

My dad, Jan, died from ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. My dad always encouraged his children to follow their dreams so I thought this would be a great opportunity to fulfill a dream of my own in his memory.

The support from my family, friends, teammates from ALS TDI and spectators at the Nov. 3 marathon was like nothing I have ever experienced before.

I couldn’t keep up with all of the messages and words of encouragement that were coming from my friends, family, and members of the ALS TDI team.

We also had the opportunity to meet the dedicated people from ALS TDI who are using these funds to make a difference for people with ALS.

Several family members came out for the race, and we even got our own team shirts. For much of the marathon, people were cheering so loudly I couldn’t hear my music. This all made the run itself feel like a five-hour celebration – and I think you can see it in all of the pictures of me smiling during the race.

And doing it to help end ALS in memory of my dad and Bob Brooks (my friend’s dad), both of whom lost their lives to ALS, made it that much more special.

It took me 5 hours and 3 minutes to run the 26.2-mile race, an average of 11 minutes, 36 seconds per mile.

I was the 38,695th runner to cross the finish line out of 53,508 finishers.

My running friends warned me that I wouldn’t be able to do just one marathon and they sure got it right!

The support, energy, sense of accomplishment and knowing that I’m making an impact on helping to end ALS made the experience incredible.

Instead of seeing this marathon as a once in a lifetime, I’m now viewing it as a next step.

I hope to do another one at some point in the future (not any time soon though!) and to continue to raise awareness and funding for research to help end ALS.

I’m so grateful for everyone who made this an extraordinary experience, who gave me the courage to run a distance I had never before attempted, who made donations for such an important cause.

Our fundraising page will remain open until Dec. 31, and any donations are very much appreciated and support a great cause: https://fundraise.als.net/team/meridithwentz

(Meridith is the daughter of Karen (Wilt) Wentz and the late Jan Wentz, both natives of Lock Haven. Email her at went0056@umn.edu.)

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