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Destined to Run for Team Reeve

Erin Nolan.

Erin Nolan.

By: Stephanie Milot

Name: Erin Nolan
Age: 26
Hometown: Olney, Maryland
Event: 2011 ING New York City Marathon

In 2009 and 2010, Erin Nolan was a spectator at the ING New York City Marathon. "It's inspiring to watch all those people run," says Nolan. "I was blown away by the people running and the crowd support. The energy in the city that day is just amazing."

Caring cousin
Nolan, 26, a resident of New York City, will experience being on the other side of the barrier by running in the 2011 ING New York City Marathon for Team Reeve in honor of her cousin, Anthony Purcell. On February 6, 2010 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Purcell, then age 22, dove through a shallow wave and hit the ocean floor. The dive resulted in a fractured neck and a spinal cord injury at the C5, C6 level.

"Anthony couldn't move or feel his arms and legs," explains Nolan, "and doctors told him there would be a very slim chance that he would ever walk again." She continues, "No one in the family, especially Anthony and my aunt, would accept that."

Since April of 2010, Purcell has been in rehab at Project Walk in California. Since entering rehab, he has gained movement in his arms, including the ability to eat on his own, and to use his phone for text messaging. "He's making tremendous progress every day," says Nolan. "It's truly inspiring."

Purcell has since started his own website to raise funds in support of research for spinal cord injury treatment, in addition to helping those in need to afford rehabilitation.

Here's Erin and her cousins in 2010 after completing a half-marathon in Fort Lauderdale,
Florida in honor of Anthony.

Here's Erin and her cousins in 2010 after completing a half-marathon in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in honor of Anthony.

Non-stop runner and fundraiser
Just as Purcell has been progressing in his recovery, Nolan has progressed as a runner. As a high school athlete, she played field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse. In college, she began running recreationally. After college she began running races, including the Baltimore 10-miler and the New York City Half Marathon, among others.

"There are people who would give anything to get up and run in the morning. That makes it so motivating," says Nolan. "When everything with Anthony happened, I was like, ‘Now I have that extra motivation to do something to make a difference, to raise money for spinal cord injuries.'"

Not only is Nolan excited to run for her cousin and Team Reeve, but she is confident and hopeful she will surpass her fundraising goal of $4,000.

Nolan has started by contacting her friends and family through emails and Facebook. She plans to guest bartend during silent auction Happy Hours in New York City and is hoping to do the same back home in the D.C. area where most of her family is still living. She has also gained a corporate sponsor in the name of the Jerrold Van Winter Charitable Foundation.

Time for training
Besides fundraising, necessary marathon preparation includes training. "I really do have to thank Team Reeve and La Palestra [Athletic Club]," says Nolan. La Palestra Athletic Club is managing an exclusive training program for Team Reeve's marathon runners. Nolan continues, "We work together so they have told me exactly how many miles I have to run on what days, so I know exactly how far I have to go."

In addition to the helpful workout schedule provided by the partnership of Team Reeve and La Palestra, time management is an important factor in Nolan's weekly training. She trains six-days-per-week, for at least an hour each day, consisting of running and various strength training leg workouts.

"Right now running is one of my top priorities," says Nolan. "I figure, what's six months out of one year of my life that's dedicated to running? It's really not that much." Surely Nolan's dedication to running will allow her to reach her desired time for the marathon -- under 4 hours and 15 minutes.

Marathon support
Although Nolan is running New York City solo, she is thankful for Team Reeve's running group. "It will be great to be out there with a group of people who are all training and running for the same cause," explains Nolan.

"Team Reeve is a good support system," she continues. "You can talk to them [the runners] about stretching and what they're eating. It's also nice to see how they're doing with fundraising."

Nolan will also have a supportive crowd of family and friends at the marathon, from throughout New York State and the D.C. area. "It will be great to see familiar faces along the course," says Nolan, "especially in the later miles when I really need that extra push." Although her cousin is unable to be in New York City due to his rehab in California, in the words of Nolan, "He'll be there in spirit."

Destiny and inspiration
When Nolan decided to run the Marathon, she initially applied through the lottery, but did not get a spot. She did not let this stop her. Determined to run, she searched online for charities represented in the Marathon.

"I got to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation [on the list of charities] and said, ‘That's who I have to run for,'" Nolan excitedly explains. "Everything happened for a reason. I didn't get in through the lottery because there was something better."

Nolan is greatly motivated to run the Marathon not only for her cousin, but for everyone living with paralysis. "Every single step that I've taken since I started the training has been for them," explains Nolan.

Nolan often reads the stories on the Reeve Foundation's website about people living with spinal cord injuries that have overcome obstacles and made progress in their recovery.

"I read the stories about the accidents and it breaks my heart," she says. "Then I read further and it's the determination and the fight that these people have that is unbelievable. They have the mindset that they will walk again."

Ambitious runner
Although she has not yet run the ING New York City Marathon, Nolan is anxiously looking into the future. She is already thinking about the 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, and running again for Team Reeve.

"I will definitely run another marathon," says Nolan, "and I wouldn't run for anyone else but the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation."

If you would like to support Erin Nolan and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, check out Erin's donation page.

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Continue Christopher Reeve's LegacyPhoto by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders