REPOSTED from The Times Tribune
She hears the repeated collisions between sneaker and pavement as she glides down a North Scranton street on a humid summer night, and that’s peace.
She feels her face reddening on a winter’s morning on a trail in the Midvalley, and that’s soul-warming.
She finds promise in the blooms on a spring morning navigating those cinders. She’s refreshed by the fall air, the leaves crackling underneath her feet.
There are plenty of reasons people run, and Lynn Giacomi has hers. But, to understand those, you have to understand the most basic of them all: She needs it.
“When I’m running, I don’t really think about anything except what I’m doing,” Giacomi said. “I’m actually in the moment. Work falls away. Any diversions kind of fall away. It’s just you and what you’re doing.
“It’s good for me to shut down and be able to see that every once in a while.”
This weekend, those running shoes will take the 52-year-old Carbondale native and Old Forge resident to New York City, where she’ll compete in the TCS New York City Marathon. Running as part of the group of 48 runners — more than two dozen of whom are from Lackawanna County — representing Allied Services and the Ryan’s Run foundation that raises money to support its efforts, she’ll cruise through the five boroughs the same way she has come to know the streets of Scranton and the Midvalley’s trails. She’ll stick around Monday and experience the feeling of donning a medal in Central Park having completed her first marathon.
She can barely imagine what that feeling might be like. Not after the last few years, when there has plenty of time to think about so many things that have led her to this point. The why. The how. And, mostly, the who.
What makes you happy
Giacomi and her sister used to insist they’d both run the 26.2-mile gauntlet of strength, stamina and will by the time they were 50. Giacomi’s sister did it. Life got in Lynn’s way, though.
That’s not to say she never gave it a shot. She and her husband Chet ran together just like they worked together — Lynn a registered nurse and health services manager of Allied’s developmental services division, and Chet as program specialist for Allied’s work services program, providing support for individuals with disabilities employed there. Lynn and her husband ran some 5Ks to get back into running. She and Chet did the Race For The Cure in 2012, just a week before they got the news.
Chet had cancer. And, he fought it — man, did he fight it — until mid-October, 2015.
After 2012, running for Giacomi paused. It wasn’t until about a year after Chet’s death that friends from her community running club, Can’t Is Not An Option, urged her to run for therapeutic reasons.
She ran as most do, in fits and starts. But on those trails and streets, Giacomi began to heal. And think. And dream, again.
“His death was very motivating, because I really didn’t know what to do with myself, besides grieve,” she said. “He always told me, ‘Don’t sit around. Go out and do what makes you happy. And, be healthy.’ ”
Art of giving
Talk to anyone who knows Giacomi, and they tend to say the same thing: Even when she does something for herself, it’s not about her.
As her love for running rekindled, she started a 10-week, couch-to-5K program, in which she coaches and motivates colleagues hopeful of attaining a healthier lifestyle. She also helped coach the five-week 5K running club at Allied’s dePaul School for students with learning disabilities. She is running her marathon in honor of John Paul Ciullo, a dePaul School student who has been undergoing speech therapy at Allied Services since he was 2.
There’s also another form of giving. Everyone who runs the marathon with Allied is required to raise a minimum of $5,000, and some raise that money through large donations from corporate sponsors. Giacomi gave away T-shirts, with a $30 donation. She had basket raffles and bake sales, inching toward her goal one chocolate-covered Oreo at a time. She held two happy-hour events. In between, she boosted her personal fundraising goal to $10,000, and exceeded even that by a couple grand, a few dollars at a time.
Through Ryan’s Run and the donations from people like Giacomi, $2.1 million has been raised for Allied Services in its first seven years. This year, it is on pace to bring in another $500,000, but Giacomi’s efforts to contribute have stood out.
“It was amazing the volume of gifts she got,” said Jim Brogna, Allied Services’ vice president, corporate advancement and communications. “(Donors) knew the effort she was putting into it. I think that’s more significant than people with ultra-wealth giving a huge gift. It speaks more to the amount of people she has touched in her life, whether it is colleagues or the people she treats and their families.”
She must be pretty amazed by that, you’d think. But Lynn Giacomi stops you quickly at amazed. Humbled, she insists, is a better choice of words. Humbled for the support from her family, friends and the community. Humbled to represent her employer Sunday. Humbled to remember her husband in a way she knows would make him proud.
“I see what Allied does for this area,” Giacomi said. “I do feel like I owe Allied, and I want to give back, because they’ve been so good to me and my husband for so many years.”
So, she did the coaching for her friends and colleagues. She’ll do the race for Chet and John Paul. She did the fundraising for Allied Services and the members of the community that someday might need its help.
For her? That medal Monday in Central Park, dangling around her neck, will do just fine. The reminder of a job well done, the realization of a dream come true, the fulfillment of a sacred pact to be healthy, to live life to its fullest.
DONNIE COLLINS is a sports columnist for The Times-Tribune. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @DonnieCollinsTT.