EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 27, 2013

Running raising funds for autism

Bradford's DeLeon helps cause for her children

By Dave Dyer

---- — Now this is a cause that really hits home.

Since becoming more serious about her running back in 2009 when she joined the Greater Derry Track Club, Judy DeLeon of Bradford knew that she wanted to run a marathon and specifically the Boston Marathon.

But she also knew that it would probably take a gradual increase in racing distance and, if she wanted to run Boston, a cause worth running for.

The races have taken care of themselves for DeLeon, who works for the Department of Children and Families in Haverhill.

She moved up from a 5K to a 5-miler to a 10K to a half-marathon, which she has now completed twice. After the second one, the Wallis Sand Half-Marathon in Rye, N.H., she knew she would be ready for the full 26.2 miles.

By this time, she realized that she’d be running for the Flutie Foundation, which is dedicated to providing services for and looking for cures for autism. With two young children at home with autism, 6-year-old Nathan and soon to-be 3-year-old Annalie, it was a natural.

“I always liked running, and I wanted to run a marathon, but this (running for the Flutie Foundation) gives me a reason to run and motivates me,” said DeLeon, a 2001 graduate of Lawrence High. “Raising money for this is so important.

“I’ve seen how important the services are and we need more of them, not less. As a parent, you always want to do more, to help out and to feel better. This is my way of doing that.”

Running Boston for a cause creates two challenges, of course.

One is the fundraising, which entails raising pledges of at least $4,000.

The other is making sure you’re physically ready to run the 26.2 miles in a respectable manner, to represent your group.

The fundraising isn’t easy and, as of a week ago, DeLeon was only a little over halfway there. But it hasn’t bothered her.

“It’s hard, but it’s also fun,” said DeLeon of the fundraising. “I like to deal with people and it appeals to my creative side, on ways to do it.”

The training may be going better.

“I did the half-marathon in 2:02 and felt pretty good after it,” said DeLeon.

“I did an 18-miler last month, a 20-miler in Salem a couple of weeks ago and a 21-miler over the weekend. I hurt my Achilles’ in January and had to take two weeks off but since then everything has been going well.”

What’s made the training easier is that DeLeon has several support groups.

Training for a marathon alone can get stale in a hurry, but she has done training runs and gotten assistance from members of the Flutie Foundation, the Greater Derry Track Club and Susan Hurley of North Andover’s pre-marathon training group.

“I’ve gotten so much help and that has really made a difference with my running,” said DeLeon.

In the end, DeLeon hopes that it will make a difference for the Flutie Foundation, and her children, as well.