Brad Kloha of Mount Pleasant, MI, doesn’t consider himself a runner. He used to do track and field back in high school, sure, but by his own admission, it was means to an end. He played volleyball and running kept up the cardio and was just a way of keeping on top of things. He suggests that running in OCR’s is merely a means of getting to the next obstacle. But last year, his means to an end became a little more important.
“In the five hour drive back from the Midwest Super Spartan in October 2012, I had a lot of time to think. It was my 12th of what would be 13 obstacle races that year, and I loved every minute of it. One of the great things about the races, is not only do they present a fun and unique challenge from everyday life, but also that most are connected to charity organizations.”
Kloha had his own charity in mind. “While all of the charities supported by these races are extremely worthy causes, I wanted to find a way to turn my love of obstacle racing into a way to also raise money for a cause near and dear to me and my family, the Alzheimer’s Association. However, with so many races already in the market, I didn’t want to create my own race, instead, I wanted to create a campaign where I could utilize the existing races out there and raise money by hopefully peaking the interest of individuals to donate to the Alzheimer’s Association.”
Out of this idea came “Run to Remember”.
He explains, “The first thought was to complete 52 races in 52 weeks, but somehow in my mind that seemed to not be enough. I wanted to push the envelope further, which is why I decided upon 100 races in 52 weeks. The same thought process came for the goal of raising $1 million for the Alzheimer’s Association…I could have gone smaller, but I wanted to attempt to have the greatest impact I could. As I pulled into my parking lot back home in Mount Pleasant, MI, the idea was firmly set in my mind – 100 races. 52 weeks. 1 goal. $1 million to support the Alzheimer’s Association.”
Alzheimers is a condition that Kloha is well-aquainted, “Alzheimer’s disease claimed the lives of both my great-grandmother, Lydia Kloha, when I was very young, and more recently, my grandmother, Phyllis Brinkman on June 18, 2011. Because I was very young at the time of my great-grandmother’s battle with the disease, I wasn’t fully aware of the devastation the disease causes, not only for the individual, but for the family. However, when my grandmother was diagnosed in 1998, I was 14, and now had an understanding of what was ahead as she, my mom, and my aunt sat down with all of the grandkids and explained the prognosis.”
The effect on Kloha was extreme, “For the next 13 years, my family and I watched as my grandmother slowly lost her memories. It started out very minor and was hardly noticeable, but eventually progressed into more difficult stages. Her short-term memory began to fade and she could only recall individuals who had been in her life up to a certain point.”
The loss of her husband, Kloha’s grandfather only furthered the seriousness of her condition. ”After my grandfather passed away in 2004, her mental faculties took a much more significant decline. On Thanksgiving Day that same year, while we were at church, she had left a pot on the stove, and when we had returned from church the pot had caught on fire, burning her house down to a complete loss. This was the point in which my family realized she could no longer live on her own.”
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s. Something that is hard to take for those watching loved ones struggle. ”During my grandma’s 13 year battle, I felt completely helpless. There was nothing I could for her, or for my family, to take away any of the pain or suffering. While I felt helpless then, I now feel like “Run to Remember” is my way of finally taking action. Though it can’t bring my family members back, hopefully it can have an impact for families and those afflicted in the future. I take on this task in the hope that a cure can be found.”
Kloha has many memories that will sustain him of his grandmother, “When my family celebrated my grandmother’s final birthday before she passed away, she was to the point where she wasn’t speaking, didn’t know who anyone was, and had lost much of her physical ability as well. As I sat with her and tried to talk to her while my mom made preparations for the others to arrive, she continued to stare off into the distance or look at me blankly. However, at one point, my mom said something that made me laugh, and in that instant, my grandma looked directly at me, eyes clearer than they had been in years, and grabbed my hand. She tried to speak, but wasn’t able. The moment of clarity was fleeting, but I believe at that time, my grandma knew who I was and it’s the memory that drives me forward to complete the 100 races.”
Kloha’s journey began on June 15, 2013 and will end on June 14, 2014. He will complete 100 races. ”I wear a sleeve on my forearm with a picture of me and grandma from her last birthday, to remind me of why I’m running. While my body feels great now, I know there may come a point in the next year that I may be tired and hurting, as I get deeper into the 100 races, but I also know that there are those with the disease and their families that are hurting even more – motivation enough for me to keep going.”
Kloha is working hard to raise funds for the research, “To date, I’ve raised just over $11,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association, the majority of which was donated even before I started to run. When I started, I wanted to insure that every dollar an individual donated went right to the Alzheimer’s Association and not to me racing, so that’s how I’ve set it up. Currently, I’m paying for most all expenses myself, with many race organizers for races I’m running throughout the year graciously offering free entries to help bring down my personal costs and enable me to reach my goal.”
[Editor's Note: People can read more about Run to Remember on this website (www.runtoremember.net). They can also follow along on Facebook and Twitter. On the site, they can donate or make pledges, as well as see Kloha's race calendar, watch videos from the races, and read blog entries. There is even a “Memory Wall” where individuals can tell stories of their own experience with Alzheimer’s and honor their loved ones.]
See you at the finish line… Sign up today!