What’s the connection between the USA and Iran? It sounds like a spy story but it’s an Inspiring Story instead.
This week we meet Chris Wodke, proud CMTer and–believe it or not–marathon runner. Chris is the founder of Team CMT, a group racing for the cause of Charcot-Marie-Tooth. In just two years Team CMT has expanded from Wisconsin to a global presence, with chapters in 25 States, Canada, Turkey and Iran, and new countries joining every month.
If the politicians can’t fix the world, let’s the athletes do it. They don’t quit in front of a tough job.
Inspiring Stories Meets Chris Wodke, Founder of Team CMT
So, you run for Team CMT. Can you tell us something more about Team CMT and why you decided to found it.
I was diagnosed with CMT type 1A after my nieces were diagnosed. When I looked at the symptoms for CMT on the internet I realized how lucky I was to be running. I knew it was unusual to be a long distance runner. I wanted to do something with my running to raise awareness of CMT. So I started doing fundraising and running events to raise awareness.
What’s the story behind Team CMT? How did it start?
Right after I was diagnosed with CMT, I set the goal of running the Boston Marathon. I was training and entered a series of 10 K runs here in the Milwaukee area. I always say if I can get to mile 20, I will make it to mile 26 at the finish line because it is just a 10K away.
So running the 10 K’s was one way to train for the marathon I would run to qualify for Boston. Of course, lots of really great runners run these races, most are sponsored by local running stores or other organizations. I never thought I would be good enough to be one of those runners.
This race is sponsored by the RACC (Racers Against Childhood Cancer). They have a team and raise money for cancer research. I passed one of their runners in one of the 10 K races. As I passed, I thought, he is just a guy in a shirt, we can be guys in shirts. Meaning you don’t have to be the fastest runner in the world to race for a cause and make a difference.
So Team CMT was born in my mind that day in January. We ran our first race at the end of April 2011 at a 10K in Brown Deer Wisconsin. There were 3 of us: me, my college friend Cheryl Monnat and her now fiancé Robert Kearney.
Team CMT seems to have grown quite a lot in the past few years. How many members are part of the team now and from how many states/countries?
We seem to add a few members every week. We have 125 members in 25 states. You can see the list on my website at www.run4cmt.com. We have members in Canada, Iran, Turkey, and Vietnam.
Some members are very active, others we do not hear from much. The most impressive thing is we have 25 athletes with CMT. They run, bike, walk, swim and do triathlons. To me that is amazing. I once thought I was one of the only ones. I am so happy to have found this community of fellow CMT affected athletes. They inspire me.
What’s the best marathon/place/story that you recall?
There are so many special memories. I ran the Madison Marathon to qualify for my first Boston. I had one shot to do it and had not run a marathon in years, so I did not even know if I could do it.
I had tough time training because my mom was in and out of the hospital in the months before the marathon. She passed away at the end of March and I dedicated the marathon at the end of May in her memory. I did not sleep at all the night before. I had doubts at the finish line because years before I had dropped out of this race twice at the half way point. It started to rain at about mile 15, so I ran in the rain for over 2 hours. I had doubts I would make it. It was a hilly course, the toughest I had ever run.
I took it one step at a time, the last mile was all up hill, but college friend Cheryl Monnat was there to encourage me. I remember telling her I was totally wrecked. I finished in about 4:54, over an hour under the qualifying time I needed for Boston.
I thought about my mom often during that race. I wore her watch to remind me of her. I hope she would be proud of me. I also ran Boston this year and was on the course when the blasts occur. So many memories from that day and I will be going back next year. I wrote an article about it that was published a month ago. The link is on my website.
Feel free to use the next lines to do your pitch to new members. Tell them how they can join/support the team and why, and what they are expected to do. Also, can you suggest them the best event to join in the near future?
It is free to join, but we ask for a donation if you want one of our singlet’s or to set up a fundraising page. I ask that you send us a picture doing an event so we can do a story and to join our community on Facebook. We can always use members willing to write stories, get sponsors, raise funds, or plan events.
We have an event (5K, 10K run) in Arlington Texas. It will be a huge event and will be a major fundraiser. I hope some of our members will come, I will be there and this event is planned by Dallas area member Joyce Kelly. It really is a great group of CMT affected athletes, family members, and friends of those affected by CMT.
What do you see in the future for Team CMT? What’s your world domination plan? Just kidding about the world domination, but we are truly interested in what’s next.
I want to continue to grow the team. Most weekends we have a team member doing an event somewhere in the U.S. I will continue to write stories on my experience to raise awareness and write stories about team members.
My biggest challenge is getting CMT accepted as a condition for Paratriathlon. I have competed twice at the National Championships for Paratriathlon. I had to compete in the Open Division because my condition did not classify me.
There are other CMT affected athletes that have been turned down. I am trying to work with assessors so other CMT affected athletes can compete at this National event. I will compete at the Boston Marathon, in 2012 I placed 2 in the Mobility Impaired Division.
Running Boston has been a great way to raise awareness. I will keep doing these types of national events and writing stories about it. I am working on a book about my experiences of being a CMT affected athlete, running Boston and trying to compete at the Paratriathlon National Championship.
It should be published later this year. When I learned I had CMT, I had never heard of it. It did not seem right to me that so many people have a condition no one has ever heard of, so I set out to change that. I also wanted to show the world what people with CMT can do. We can live full lives. We used to be told not to exercise. I think my disease has been slowed by being active. I want to show the world what we can do and run for those that can’t.
Ed. If you want to start your local chapter, act fast and contact Chris at www.run4cmt.com. New countries join every month. You don’t need to have Charcot-Marie-Tooth, nor to be a professional runner. You just need the desire to make a difference. – IRENE