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A Running Hero
Lori Gatto

It was never too cold, too early, or too far…

Throughout our lives we have the opportunity to meet many different people. Some pass through our lives for a few seconds, while others stay longer and touch us in a special way that change and influence who we are forever.

I would like to introduce you to a very special friend of mine, Deddie Swaney, who is someone that touched my life, as well as the lives of many others throughout her life. She is a woman of courage, determination, and kindness, and with 47 marathons under her belt, recently loss her fight against cancer at the age of 44.

I first met Deddie almost nine years ago at work and was drawn to her kindness and compassion that resonated from her beautiful and friendly smile. Deddie was an avid runner and was known around the office for her enthusiasm of the sport. Deddie’s love for running was contagious and she soon inspired me to join her by first training for a relay, later followed by a marathon. Throughout the years, she bridged many close friendships and coached many of us to our first marathons.

I will never forget Deddie’s strength as she pulled me through some very long and difficult runs. It didn’t matter how cold or how early it was, she would always make time for a run and the opportunity to spend time with her friends.

It was Deddie’s goal, along with her twin sister, Debbie, to run a marathon in all 50 states. She proudly finished 39 states and 11 remain unfinished. Her sister Debbie would comment that throughout her marathons, Deddie would stop to help other runners along the way who were struggling and oftentimes compromised her own finish time. For Deddie, it wasn’t about the time she finished the race in, but the journey and the accomplishment of completing her marathon goal. Deddie enjoyed meeting other runners throughout her journey and helped coach many of them to the finish line.

Deddie was first diagnosed with cancer almost five months ago. Although the true source of her cancer is undetermined, the doctor’s know that it started in her bile duct or liver, and that it is a very rare form of cancer for someone of her young age. With great determination and her 47 marathon medals beside her, Deddie never lost her courage, hope, and most importantly her faith was never comprised.

During one my most recent visits to see her at the hospital, I sadly watched her walk down the hall in a much weakened state struggling to make it back to her room. I reflected back at all the times I ran next to Deddie and admired her strength as she would run countless miles and never seemed to tire.

Deddie lost her fight against cancer on July 8, 2007. Deddie was more than runner; she was also a mentor and inspiration to many and will be sorely missed by all those that she touched in her life.

“The woods are dark and lovely, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep….” Although my friend Deddie didn’t have the chance to finish her other 11 states, her husband John and twin sister Debbie, have committed to finish her remaining miles for her so that she may now sleep.

Thanks Lori for sharing your article.

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