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Running with spirit

Mary Lee Smaldone, (left) and her sister Lori Noel at the Freihofer's Run for Women last year. Noel died of brain cancer in February, and Smaldone will be running in her memory in this year’s race on June 2. Photo Submitted.

Mary Lee Smaldone, (left) and her sister Lori Noel at the Freihofer's Run for Women last year. Noel died of brain cancer in February, and Smaldone will be running in her memory in this year’s race on June 2. Photo Submitted.

— While enduring treatments in Boston and later Saratoga, Noel employed running in an effort to “do everything she could” to be healthy.

“In January 2011, we had a really rough winter. She started running and walking on the treadmill, and when the weather got nice she started running pretty regularly. By August … she was running six miles a day,” said Smaldone.

Later in August she began “feeling strange,” and an MRI revealed devastating news. The tumor was growing at quickened rate. But still, she ran when she was able.

“I think she felt it gave her a sense of control and freedom … she had so many treatments and doctor’s appointments. When she was out running, it took her away from all that and gave her a chance to feel normal … almost like she was winning the battle.”

Smaldone believes it was her sister’s wish for her to enter the race this year. She wasn’t sure she was going to run, but she attended a women’s conference in March at Siena College with her sister-in-law, who picked up a flyer about the race and the associated Training Challenge. Smaldone signed up for the challenge and the race the next day.

Race Director George Regan said the Training Challenge began last year in order to help women train to run “from scratch.” The challenge organizes women into varying groups according to skill and fitness level and through weekly meetings at The Crossings in Colonie serves to build up their strength and endurance. On Saturdays, the Challenge also holds group runs at the Colonie Town Park.

Each group also has a media person involved with the training. Smaldon’s group includes Ann Hughes of Fox 23 News.

“Initially it was harder than I thought it was going to be, but it’s a great feeling to be running with so many other people who have a similar goal. It’s a great motivator,” said Smaldone.

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