May 14, 2012
One week after Emmanuel's end of the year Athletic Awards Night, two student-athletes embarked on a courageous fund-raising journey, which took them on a 13.1 mile trek through Providence, Rhode Island. Two standouts on the Saints Women's Tennis Team, Jenna Reid (Lincoln, R.I.) and Jenny Konecnik (Sparta, N.J.), joined forces with classmate Emily MacDougall to run the 2012 Cox Providence Half Marathon. However, this was not just a recreational experience for the three rookie half marathoners. The trio spent four months fundraising for a cause true to their hearts.
Reid, Konecnik and MacDougall are all members of the "1804 Society," an Emmanuel College Club committed to spreading the mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, the College's founders in 1919. Mark Harrington, the Associate Director of the College's Center for Mission and Spirituality said that Reid and MacDougall approached him in February with their desire to fundraise for the Sisters and run the half marathon in May. "They had researched some of the existing teams on the race website, but preferred to create their own team and give any money they raised to the Sisters of Notre Dame."
After speaking with Sister Isabelle Tsamba Izika, SND, Harrington knew he had the perfect match for the three students' financial efforts. Sister Isabelle was serving as the principal of a school in central Africa, before traveling to Boston to pursue her Bachelor's Degree in Sociology. Currently enrolled at Emmanuel College and expected to graduate in December, Sister Isabelle joined Harrington as one of the advisors for the 1804 Society.
Sister Isabelle described in detail how the lack of finances drastically impacts the education of young people in the Congo. "She mentioned that at her school about 400 students start the year, but by midway through, half have already dropped out because of the lack of money," commented Harrington. "By the end of the year, they only have about a hundred students still enrolled." Such a small amount of money here can go so far in Africa. At Sister Isabelle's school, just fifty dollars can provide one student with an education for an entire year. With Harrington's insight on this, along with the Emmanuel students' willingness to fundraise, he was able to fuse a perfect match.
Reid, a rising senior on the Women's Tennis Team, put out an email to the twenty-five member 1804 Society to try to garner support for the race. Konecnik, her tennis teammate and the Club's Student Coordinator, immediately joined the cause and said she would run. "The most I had ever run before was eight miles," said Konecnik. "But Jenna took an eight-week training program off the race website and we followed that."
The trio did not train for or run the race together, but completed the same training program. The two-month program topped off at ten miles one week prior to race day. The May 6th race was sponsored by United Healthcare and began in Downtown Providence. The course included a mix of historic urban and rural neighborhoods, as the race headed along the Providence River to India Point Park before turning down tree-lined Blackstone Boulevard toward Pawtucket. After winding through Pawtucket, the course wrapped back down along the Providence River and finished downtown.
With the training behind them, Reid, Konecnik and MacDougall were blessed with terrific weather on race day. "We could not have gotten luckier with the weather," said Konecnik "And we were truly shocked at how smoothly it all went." Although none of the three students had a set goal in mind for a finish time, all three first-time half-marathoners cruised in at a very respectable clip. MacDougall clocked in at 2:01.39. Konecnik finished in 2:06.32 and Reid completed the 13.1 mile course in 2:18.31.
Amazingly, the three actually got faster toward the final portion of the race. "All of us can attest to how the last three miles may have even been our fastest, which shocked us," recalled Konecnik. When asked if she would consider running again next year, Konecnik didn't hesitate. "Definitely, I loved the course. I just wanted to finish this year and next year I will shoot for a certain time."
Not only was the half marathon an incredible achievement, but the fundraising was a success as well. Together, the Reid, Konecnik and MacDougall combined to raise over \$1,000.00 for the Sisters of Notre Dame. When she completes her degree program next semester, Sister Isabelle will return to the Congo with enough money to send twenty children to school for an entire year.
Sister Isabelle was speechless when she was informed of the fundraising and running efforts of behalf of the children. The 1804 Society is not done yet. The organization will continue to spread the mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame and Konecnik plans recruit even more runners next year. "I know we can get a bigger group together for next year, because now so many other people are saying they want to run too!"