Jackie Gingrich Cushman

“A goal is a dream with a deadline.” Napoleon Hill

Six months ago, my sister Kathy and I decided to walk a marathon to raise money for the Arthritis Foundation. This was a particularly bold goal for Kathy, as she has rheumatoid arthritis.

Our initial steps were to gather team members (Phyllis Head, Cynthia Counts and Jeanne Cadwallader), pick a marathon (Athens, Greece) and name the team, (A2A4A – America to Athens for Arthritis). Once these steps were complete, our dream (walk a marathon for the Arthritis Foundation) had a deadline, November 4, 2007.

That gave us six months – enough time to train for the 26.2-mile walk and to raise money for the Arthritis Foundation. Our training, facilitated by Olympian Jeff Galloway, included long walks every 2 – 3 weeks, eventually equaling the marathon distance. Along the way, we encountered blisters, pulled muscles and, in my case, plantar fasciitis, a painful foot ailment.

Fundraising included e-mailing, mailing letters and requesting donations. We were all thrilled with the response, and left for Athens with more than $35,000 in donations for the Arthritis Foundation. Along the way, our team created our own mantra, “Walk on,” reflecting our team’s goal of moving forward with purpose.

Kathy and I arrived in Athens on Friday, November 2. We were the last of the team members to arrive. We were all excited and a bit nervous about the upcoming weekend. We had a team dinner and a good night’s sleep.

Saturday we toured Athens. The tour began with the Acropolis, which according to our guide Marissa means city on a hill. After walking up the long pathway from the modern city of Athens to the Acropolis, we came upon the Propylaea, or gateway into the Acropolis. To the south of the Propylaea we saw the Nike Temple, built for the goddess of Victory.

This Nike temple (pronounced Nee Kay in Greek as Marissa informed us), was built around 420 B.C. to celebrate the Athenians’ victory over the Persians.

The Greeks fought the Persians at Marathon in 490 B.C. Although outnumbered, the Greeks defeated the Persians. Legend holds that, once the battle was complete, Phidippides, an Athenian messenger, ran from Marathon to Athens to spread the news of the Greeks’ victory. He ran into a theater where people were gathered, yelled Nike! and then died. This was the birth of the marathon event.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.