Wharton MBAs have tremendous demands on their time: academics, recruiting, extra-curriculars … and perhaps the odd party. But an incredible group of Wharton students devoted their time to a challenge that was not only a huge personal stretch experience, but also would help others.
Outside of my day job, I’m honored to serve as head running coach for DetermiNation Philadelphia, the endurance athletics program of the American Cancer Society. Returning from my sabbatical, I set up a team, Wharton Against Cancer, to run the Philly Full or Half Marathon. Due to the $1,000/person fundraising minimum, the typical team size is 3-4, so I was amazed that 11 gutsy students joined. Most had never run a half-marathon before, and stretched themselves even further by adding a fundraising target to the physical challenge.
Why? Eoin Condren (WG ’14) explained: “I ran the race for the challenge. I never imagined before I came to Wharton that I’d be donning my running shoes and shorts, but we’ve been told enough times that these two years are all about stretch experiences.”
Borja Deniz (WG ’14) noted: “Because, unfortunately, cancer is a disease that affects millions of people … being at Wharton is a recognition and an opportunity for me, and I believe we have more responsibility than others to be aware of the problems in the world and try to do significant things.”
We were joined by Amy Chiu (WG ’13), Jenn Doran (WG ’14), Zurine Eguizabal (WG ’14), Brent Frissora (WG ’13) and his mother Jenny, Nicole Hong (WG ’14), Max Kretchmer (WG ’14), Lane Rettig (WG ’14), Eva Wang (WG ’13), and Ying Wang (WG ’14). We were amazed at the generosity of our classmates and colleagues, who helped us raise over $15,700 and receive the Top Fundraising Team award. Their donations will help thousands of people who they will never meet and who will never get the chance to thank them.
There was a special feeling among the Wharton athletes as we warmed up together on race morning. Before Wharton we were consultants, policymakers, software developers; we hailed from Ireland, Korea, Spain. But today we were united by a common goal.
Everybody crushed it. After finishing my half-marathon, I jogged back to the 12-mile mark to cheer on my team-mates. When I saw them running with both fortitude and joy even after 12 miles, I felt tremendous pride. I saw Borja, Eoin, and Max en route to smashing the 2-hour mark. I jumped in with Nicole for her final mile. She found a second wind, overtaking hundreds of runners and not being passed by a single person. She beamed that it “was perhaps the happiest day since I moved to Philadelphia. I was happy because I achieved what seemed almost impossible, but more importantly, there were so many people on the street cheering for all the runners, and I really felt like I belong to this city and country. I was also really touched when I saw my dear learning team friends. It was such a freezing early Sunday morning, but they still came out to cheer for me! Learning team J8, you guys are the best!”
I jogged to mile 25 and saw Amy looking very strong, on her way to completing her first marathon in under 4 hours. Then I jumped in with Lane and ran the final mile with himLane later said: “I thought that, if I could finish a marathon on top of all the challenges I’m facing as a first-year MBA student, then I could truly do anything, and that the experience would give me strength and confidence to face all of my other challenges. It was especially meaningful because I devoted the race to my mother, who lived in Philadelphia. I lost her last year. That last mile was unbelievable. I’ve never felt anything like that before in my life. It was simultaneously exhilarating, terrifying, energizing.”
Dan Lavelle, the DetermiNation Event Manager, wrote to me: “The Wharton Against Cancer team has been one of my proudest moments with DetermiNation. For these students, who are so incredibly intelligent and immersed in their education, to take on an additional challenge of running … and not just running for its own sake … but for those impacted by cancer all over the world, is something very special to me.”
Shash Mody (WG ’13) ran for a different cause. When in Minnesota for a case competition, he met a teacher of 43 Somalian first-grade refugees. Shocked to learn that the school, had intermittent running water, no textbooks, and a scarcity of simple supplies such as pencils, crayons, and glue, Shash raised over $1,500 so that the kids now have basic supplies to get an education. He hopes that this “’shows how easy it is to make a difference, and that others too will act upon initiatives they feel strongly about.”
The movie Spiderman taught us that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Wharton students have the talent, resources, and network to achieve great things that help themselves, or that help others. These students – and those who supported them through sponsorship, coming out to cheer for them on a cold Sunday morning, or through simple appreciation and encouragement – are a credit to our brand and a credit to the Wharton community.