Dr. Gina Brown is the Dean of the College of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences at Howard University in Washington D.C. For years, she has turned to running to manage the numerous stresses of her demanding job.
Gina explained, “I’m responsible for 800 students and 9 departments with 100 plus employees. Running lets me diffuse life and not think about work problems and everything else I have going on.”
Gina’s competitive running career began six years ago when she and her “female BFF” began meeting in Pittsburgh for a 10K. That tradition escalated to training for the Miami half marathon. Gina recalls with a laugh the two of them crawling across the floors of their hotel after they finished the race. Over the next few years Gina had a series of running partners, a “run wife,” and her husband, who made it through three half marathons before retiring. Gina’s “male BFF,” a former enlisted Marine, got her to run her first full marathon - the Marine Corp Marathon in Washington D.C. From there, he got Gina interested in cross training, which allowed her to complete two triathlons last year.
Gina then turned her considerable focus on the six major marathons, recently completing Berlin and New York. She then set her sights on Boston.
“The Boston Marathon has always been on my bucket list, right along with seeing the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids of Giza.” Gina has already crossed off those two world wonders and has added Victoria Falls and Antarctica to the list.
With her Boston plans set, Gina became very particular about the cause she wanted to run for. Her thoughts turned to her late father, a “wonderful guy” who worked for the postal service for forty-six years. Several years ago he developed idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a rare autoimmune disorder that causes the body to consume its own platelets.
His platelet count at one point dropped down to 6, when a normal count is between 150,000 and 400,000. He was hospitalized and required numerous platelet and whole blood donations from the Red Cross. He had a rare blood type that made obtaining platelets and blood especially difficult. Gina worked directly with Red Cross Blood Services to locate and secure blood for her father.
“The people at the Red Cross were phenomenal. They found blood all over the place for my father. I am so grateful to them, even though he passed. What they did prolonged his life. When I was thinking about who I want to raise money for, who I believe in, I chose the Red Cross.”
Gina went through Team Red Cross’ application process and was selected. Gina exclaimed, “When they called and told me I was on the team it felt like winning the Powerball.” Team Red Cross consists of more than 60 members who will run the historic 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston. Their stated mission is to “help to save and transform the lives of people in their greatest time of need.”
Gina was thrilled to be knocking a big item off her bucket list while raising money for a cause she truly believes in. She wants people to know how supportive her entire team has been.
“I live 800 miles from Boston in Bowie, Maryland. Most people on the team live in Boston. But I haven’t felt as much distance as I thought I would. Everyone is very supportive and I always feel connected.”
As part of their training cadence, the entire Red Cross team completed a twelve to fifteen mile run the morning of Gina’s interview for this article. Gina is focused on sticking to the training plan designed by her team and has set a personal goal for her marathon time. She is working with a coach while cross training and trying hard to eat right. Her biggest challenge at the moment is weaning herself off sugar, which she loves.
When all of the hard work is done and Gina takes that final turn onto Boylston Street on April 18th, she expects to be thinking about one thing.
“I’ll be in disbelief that I actually got this done! When I get this done, it should prove to the world that anybody can run a marathon if they put the work in.”
As of publication, Gina is at 68% of her fundraising goal with just under three months to go until Marathon Monday.
“I know that my dad would be really proud of me doing this, and so I honor him and the thousands of other who have been blessed by the wonderful merits of the Red Cross.”