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Q&A: Alex’s Angels Raising Awareness at RiMaConn to End NF

By October 5, 2021January 17th, 2024Featured

Alex’s Angels, Diane, John, Marni, Mauneen, Sam, and Trista, have been training all throughout the summer to run 95 miles from Rhode Island, through Massachusetts, ending in Connecticut to give 8-year-old Alex the chance for a “tumor-free future.” Diane’s son Alex, was born with NF and currently suffers from inoperable tumors on his brain, back, stomach and arms. In honor of Alex, they all completed the RiMaConn relay in August under the NF Endurance Team’s Choose Your Own Challenge option to support our mission to end NF. We spoke with the team about training for RiMaConn and their “way of fighting back against a disease that has taken too much from too many people.”


Tell us about the RiMaConn Relay and why are you participating?

Diane: RiMaConn is a fast-paced, 95 mile, 6-person relay race that starts in Rhode Island, runs through Massachusetts, and ends in Connecticut. Back in April, a friend asked me if I would start a team with her, and since “misery loves company” how could I refuse? Marni’s nickname is “Boss Lady” because although I’m the captain, Marni’s the one that keeps us all in line.

John: I was invited by Diane Owens to join the team and RiMaConn will be my first team relay race!

Marni: I’ve done three relays and have always thought RiMaConn would be fun. When a couple of my bible study group ladies asked me to join them I thought it would be a blast and a great way to get to know them better. Let’s face it, 6 people in a van for 16 hours—how could you not get to know them better?

Samantha: I decided to join the team because it sounded like a really neat challenge, and I loved the idea of tying in fundraising support.

Trista: The relay starts in Rhode Island, we run through Massachusetts, and ends in Connecticut. It is a combination of road and trail running. It’s a total of 95 miles divided by 6 runners. I am running to support Alex Owens.


What is your connection to neurofibromatosis? Why are you fundraising with the NF Endurance team as part of the Alex’s Angels team?

Diane: My son Alex has NF1 and the Children’s Tumor Foundation has been instrumental in guiding our family through the ups and downs of dealing with his condition. They give us hope for a tumor-free future and focus on how to achieve it.

John: I met Diane and her family through a mutual running friend and met her son Alex who has neurofibromatosis, so fundraising is my little part to help out.

Marni: One of those ladies was Diane Owens, whose son, Alex, has NF. Our group knew we wanted to fundraise for a cause, rarely does any one of us run without a cause in mind, and the Children’s Tumor Foundation was the natural choice.

Samantha: I first learned about NF when I met Diane and her awesome son Alex. Having met him, I was driven to learn a little more about NF and was honored to have the opportunity to join the NF Endurance team.

Trista: We met the Owens family at church and realized we have children the same age. They shared Alex’s story with us and we want to support them in helping to find a cure to end NF.

Mauneen: I met Diane at Mom’s Bible Study 6 years ago. Our families quickly became friends and my kids have been babysitting Alex since he was 2 years old. He’s like a little brother to them. We want to support and help him any way we can.

What keeps you going through the toughest moments? 

Diane:  A few years ago I spent 2 months in the hospital quadriplegic. When my runs seem slow or the weather is undesirable to be running outside I think back to those days in the hospital and am reminded of how blessed I am to be able to put one foot in front of the other.

John: I have a dear friend who was in a car accident and she is now a quadriplegic, so I often think, what a gift it is to just be able to go out and run 13.1+ miles.

Marni: Whenever I’m having a particularly hard run or feel like quitting, I always think of those that have their own struggles that they must endure, if they can’t quit, neither can I.

Trista: The encouragement of friends and knowing that I am doing this run for a greater purpose and not just myself.


What are you most looking forward to about RIMACONN?

Diane: The buzz of excitement in the van as my teammates and I support each other, prepare for our runs, and collapse in the back seat after each leg.

John: The new challenge of running a long-distance relay race I’ve never done before!

Marni: All the laughs in the van…and the memories made.

Samantha: I’m definitely looking forward to “the journey” of the race, and having Alex as my inspiration to fight through the physical pain as I finish my legs of the relay! If I’m being honest, though, I’m most looking forward to being done!

Trista: Time with friends making new memories and meeting people along the way.


What is your training mantra? Favorite song to train to? Any other anecdotes about training? 

Diane: Mantra, Isaiah 40:31, But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Music, when I run I don’t listen to anything but the inner dialogue in my mind. I’ve written my autobiography at least 20 times in my head!

John: I try to have a David Goggins mentality of when you think you hit your limit, your body is only at 40% and just have to keep going. Favorite song is Zombie Stomp by Ozzy Osbourne. I always remember a phrase on the weight room wall at Siena College, “Champions are made when no one else is looking.”

Marni: Honestly, I’m not a hot-weather runner (I loathe being hot!), so my mantra for this race is “just finish!”  I’ve actually been listening to podcasts while training. I always say, if you can run 3 miles, you can run 5. If you can run 5, you can run 7. If you can run 7, you can run 10 and if you can run 10, you can run 13. It’s only a few more miles!

Samantha: I have run hundreds of miles this year solely listening to the band Misterwives. Most of their songs are really upbeat and give me such a happy mindset that it makes it fun and easy to get out there and run.

Trista: Just keeping running, just keep running…


Is there anything else you want to add?

Diane: When I agreed to run this race, we hadn’t chosen a charity. It was one of my teammates that suggested we up the ante and do it for CTF. I am humbled and so grateful for the amazing friends in my life who are carrying our family through this crazy NF journey. These athletes really are angels for my son.

John: Hope to have a good strong run to support the team!

Samantha: Just want to say thanks for the opportunity to join NF Endurance! I appreciate the chance to learn more about the incredible research and trials that are made possible by “everyday people” bringing awareness and funds to the cause. It feels pretty awesome to be making even a small difference.