San Francisco resident trains for a good cause

Henry Nguyen

Jessica Coloumbe climbs the steps into Union Square Park at the corner of Geary and Powell. Union Square will be the starting line for the Nike Women's Marathon on Oct. 16th, spanning (full) 26.2 mile and (half) 13.1 mile treks to benefit the leukemia and lymphoma society. Photo by Henry Nguyen.

Most children were taught that they can’t run away from the issues of the world, but Jessica Coloumbe runs right toward them.

Coloumbe, 31, is training and raising funds for when she will run the Nike Women’s Marathon Oct. 16. The race will raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the largest non-profit volunteer-based organization dedicated to funding research to cure blood cancer. Coloumbe said that this is her first marathon, and with the 26.2 mile trek looming, she balances her time between training and fundraising.

Coloumbe has worked as Logistics Coordinator for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer San Francisco since February, but has been fundraising for breast cancer for four years. However, Coloumbe said she felt like she needed to go the extra distance.

“I finally decided that it’s time for me to step up and dedicate my personal time to an important cause as well,” Coloumbe said. “I continually hear of more and more people affected by cancer and many of my friends are survivors. Raising money for research, treatment and education is really important and we can all do our part.”

Besides asking for donations, Coloumbe has held three unique fundraising events to gain funds for the LLS. She organized a 5K Labor Day run at Lake Merrit in Oakland, held a substantial bake sale in Albany with a fellow runner, and even held a Hipster-themed charity event at the Elixer saloon in the Mission, where she was thrown into bartending for the first time in her life.

“She is working so hard and using innovative techniques to fundraise,” said Cari Barocas, a fellow fundraiser and Coloumbe’s good friend. “Not only does she care about the cause but she is involving other people in her enthusiasm, and running a marathon no less.”

To prepare herself for the marathon and focus her fundraising efforts Coloumbe has been working with Team In Training, a group that offers training and support for distance events in exchange for fundraising efforts.

Working with a localized segment of TNT, runners receive not only a personal training plan but also a website for online fundraising for LLS. Coloumbe is still stunned to be where she is because of TNT.

“I have always considered marathon runners to be incredible athletes in a category that I would never fit into,” Coloumbe said. “I have always wanted to run a marathon, and joining Team in Training has given me the opportunity to make it about more than just running.”

Annabelle Asuncion, a member of TNT and Coloumbe’s training mentor, said that although Coloumbe is new to the process, her personality shines through.

“Whether she is running 3 miles or 13, she has a smile on her face and also waits for her other teammates to come in and help encourage them,” Asuncion said. “Jess has never done an endurance run before, but her efforts to raise money as well as increase awareness makes her a hero.”

Coloumbe said that through the process she has learned a lot about herself and her mental and physical limits.

“I have discovered what people mean when they talk about ‘mental toughness,’” Coloumbe said. “I have realized that I am tougher than I thought, and more capable than I thought. It feels good!”

Coloumbe said that a person does not need to run a marathon to help a cause; anyone can be charitable in their own way.

“Donate, volunteer, participate in smaller walks and runs to help raise awareness,” Coloumbe said. “The next time you see a bake sale buy a cookie or two.”

By Sept. 24 she had raised $1,080.76 of her $2,000 goal. To keep up with her progress visit http://pages.teamintraining.org/sf/nikesf11/jcoulombe.

TNT will start their next training session on Nov. 6 and anyone interested may contact TNT campaign manager Kerri Watt at Kerri.Watt@LLS.org.

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