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NFE Athlete Spotlight: Dawn Lowell & Michelle Piner

By January 19, 2016December 5th, 2023Awareness, NF Endurance, Ways to Give

On December 6, 2015, NF Moms Dawn Lowell and Michelle Piner participated in the California International Marathon (CIM) with the NF Endurance team. The team raised over $40,000 for NF research! We asked Dawn and Michelle to tell us about their race!

What was your favorite part of the competition?
Dawn Lowell: My favorite part is seeing the NFE team members out on the course, all of the hard work, fundraising, the training – the race is the icing on the cake. I love to see the blue shirts and say hello.

Michelle Piner: My favorite part of CIM was seeing my friends and family in their blue CTF shirts. Seeing their smiles and hearing their cheers really gave me a boost, especially late in the marathon.

What kept you going during the toughest moments?
Dawn: My daughter Ava, who suffers from NF. I think about all of the other kids, adults & families affected by this disorder, too, and tell myself my discomfort and pain is only temporary! I cannot let them down, I have no excuses. And I also feel an obligation to my donors to finish.

Michelle: During the hardest parts of the race, thinking of [my son] Timmy kept me going. I pictured Timmy’s smiling face and kept telling myself that I was doing this for him.

What was preparation and training like?
Dawn: This was my 7th marathon so I knew what I was in for! Six months of preparation & training, but this time I did most of my training alone. My running partners either were not running the full marathon or doing the relay instead or maybe just not doing the CIM this year. I would hunker down and get up at 5am on a Sunday morning to run 20 miles. Sometimes hard to juggle getting in a run and coming home to jump back into Mommy mode when all you want to do is take a nap!

Michelle: Training this year went pretty well. The long training runs felt a little bit easier than they have before. Twenty mile training runs still aren’t my favorite, but I don’t dread them nearly as much as I used to.

Why did you join the NF Endurance team? Any connection to NF you’d like to share?
Dawn: I joined NFE back in 2009 when my daughter was diagnosed at the age of 6 months with NF1. I was constantly surfing the Internet looking for some kind of answer or something I could do. I hated waiting for MRI results and calls from doctors about a disorder I really did not understand. I was a runner already prior to her diagnosis and when I found the NF Endurance team, I said to myself this is something I CAN do!! My first race was the San Jose Rock n Roll Half Marathon, I raised over $7,000 and I was hooked.

Michelle: Timmy was diagnosed with NF1 when he was a few weeks old. When Timmy was 2 years old he started chemotherapy to treat an optic glioma. A year into his chemotherapy, Timmy’s scoliosis went from mild to severe. We found out that Timmy would need to wear a scoliosis brace full time and would have to have titanium rods placed in his back (and surgery every 6 months for the rest of his childhood). I felt overwhelmed and helpless. I wanted to do something to give Timmy a better future, so I decided I would run a marathon to fund raise for Timmy. I did some research on organizations that fund NF research and found the Children’s Tumor Foundation and NF Endurance. I was given Dawn’s number and gave her a call. We have developed a wonderful friendship through our work with NF Endurance.

Do you have any advice for other NF Endurance athletes?
Dawn: You got to have a lot of heart and know you are doing this for a reason and a purpose. That will carry you through the tough times of training or during a race. And you have got to have fun on race day!!! Enjoy the ride!

Michelle: I’m not sure I have any advice for other athletes, but it makes me hopeful to see so many others training and fundraising for NF through NF Endurance. I feel grateful to be connected to CTF and the work that they do.

How does it feel knowing you raised so much money for CTF and NF research?
Dawn: It feels so wonderful to know I am doing something not only for my daughter but thousands of others affected by NF; their future is riding on this. I am thrilled to be part of all of it.

Michelle: It makes me hopeful that Timmy will have a bright future ahead with better treatment options and maybe even a cure!

What is your favorite song to train to?
Dawn: I have a lot of music on my Ipod, it really depends on my mood sometimes what I want to listen to but lately I have been inspired by Fight Song, makes my think of my daughter and gives me a boost when I am tired.

Michelle: I used to listen to music when I ran, but I don’t anymore. I use my running time to think about things and pray. It helps me sort things out in my head.

Anything else you want to mention?
Dawn: In spite of all of the horrible things that comes with NF, sometimes when I think back these last 7 years with CTF & NFE have been some of the best years of my life oddly enough! My life and my family’s lives have been changed forever by all of this. The experiences we have had through NFE have been so amazing and have created great memories for us to draw strength from during tough times. I believe sports teach us a lesson and provide such a positive role model for my children- the meaning of ‘endurance’ is the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way. I want my kids to see that!