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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Steve Schwalbach Starts 'Jackie's Run' Through Florida

Steve Schwalbach is running again to raise money and awareness to stop Alzheimer's: a disease that took his mother, Jackie. 
By Colin Moore

There are many ways to remember a loved one. We might say a prayer or plant a tree in their memory. Some of us might raise money in their name for a charity close to their heart. Not too many of us would have the dedication to run two hundred and thirty miles in eight days to raise money to fight the illness that claimed them but that’s exactly what Fort Thomas native Steve Schwalbach will be doing this March.

Steve hopes to raise $20,000 for the Alzheimer’s Associations of Cincinnati and Florida Gulf Coast by running across Florida from Daytona Beach to Lido Beach, Sarasota between March 11th and Match 18th. The event is called “Jackie’s Run,” in honor of Schwalbach’s late mother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2002 and passed away in 2015, at the age of 78.

This isn’t Steve’s first major fundraising run. In 2014 he ran two hundred and ten miles across Kentucky from North to South, in 2015 he went even further, running three hundred and twenty eight miles across Ohio, from Cleveland to Cincinnati.

He first came up with the idea of “Jackie’s Run” three years ago while visiting his mother:

“I was thinking, ‘What can I do to help her?’ She had been bedridden for more than two years,” he said. “I was saying prayers that had no answers. It was heart breaking to see my mother like this.

“I knew she was not in pain but I was watching the mother that raised me and my five brothers and sisters slip slowly into death from this awful disease.”

Steve had run cross country in high school and continued to run in college. After college he stopped running and his weight rose to two hundred and forty pounds. On a challenge by his wife he lost fifty pounds in two years by taking up running again. When he came up with the idea of running across Kentucky to raise money for Alzheimer’s in his mother’s honor he was preparing for a marathon:

“My goal was to run a marathon,” Schwalbach said. “It was tough, but I really started enjoying running again. My training and dedication, along with the inspiration from my mother, is what drives me on these cross-state runs. People told me there was no way I could do it,” Schwalbach said. “That just inspired me even more.”

As well as running in honor of his mother Steve also runs in honor of Fort Thomas’ Clem Fennell III, a family friend who is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s. Clem’s wife Vickey has been involved in Steve’s runs from their inception. “Even before I had started training for my first run I phoned Vickey and asked if she’d like to be involved,” Schwalbach remembers. “She said “I’m all in.”” 

Unfortunately this year due to Clem’s illness, Vickey will not be able to be as involved as she has been in previous years but they will release balloons at the Tower this week in honor of their loved ones.

Steve successfully completed both his Kentucky and Ohio runs and this year he has set his sights on Florida and raising even more money for the Alzheimer’s associations in his mother’s memory. His schedule is:

·         Day 1, March 11 – 22 miles from Daytona Beach to New Smyrna
·         Day 2, March 12 – 30 miles from New Smyrna to Sanford
·         Day 3, March 13 – 30 miles from Sanford to Winter Garden
·         Day 4, March 14 – 36 miles from Winter Garden to Polk City
·         Day 5, March 15 – 30 miles from Polk City to Bartow
·         Day 6, March 16 – 30 miles from Bartow to South of Lithia
·         Day 7, March 17 – 33 miles from South of Lithia to East of Bradenton
·         Day 8, March 18 – 23.5 miles from East of Bradenton to Lido Beach, Sarasota

The start point and end point of the run both have meaning to Steve. “In the 1970s and 1980s we used to pack up the car and head to Daytona Beach for spring break as a family.” His family now own a house in Sarasota and he has many friends in the running scene there. His mother passed in Sarasota last year.

Most days Steve will run the equivalent of more than a marathon. Every day Steve will be joined by a guest runner, some local to Florida but also two who will travel down from Fort Thomas to join him, Tom Duckworth and Ben Kinsella. He will be tracked by his supporters and a pace car. He usually stops about every four miles for water and maybe a banana or some other snack for sustenance.

Steve completed a marathon in January as training and runs repeat twenty mile runs at the weekends to keep himself in shape for his challenge.  Florida presents different challenges to Kentucky and Ohio but fortunately due to the time of year, the temperature should not be one of them, it should be around the same as it was during his other runs. The one year anniversary of his mother’s passing will fall during the run, on March 15th.

Steve said “Running across Florida will be special for many reasons,” he said. “I spent a lot of time there growing up, so I have great memories of my mother there. She’ll be on my mind the whole time I’m running, thinking about her and how I want to help others with Alzheimer’s.”

Today Steve doesn’t know if Jackie’s Run will become an annual event. “The main goal is to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, that’s the ultimate goal. It may be I never run a state again or I may run all fifty.” He’s pleased with the start they have made to fundraising and hopes he can reach his $20,000 target.

For more information about Steve’s journey and to donate visit You can track his progress on the Jackie’s Run page on Facebook.

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