February 12, 2014
By Rob Kean
For folks throughout the state, the region, and even the country, this year’s Boston Marathon promises to be more emotional than any of the 117 previous. For those running it on behalf of a charity close to their hearts and lives, it will be that much more so.
And so for Stow resident Brady Hoover, 28, and his fiancée Grace Steele, 23, April 21st will be as meaningful as any day either has ever known. On that day, they’ll toe the Hopkinton starting line as members of the “Run to End Alzheimer’s” team, and run in honor of Steele’s mother, Margie, who suffers from the disease, and who, at the young age of 57, is in the late stages of the illness. Hoover and Steele will also be running for Margie’s mother, who died of Alzheimer’s in 2011, and Margie’s sister, who has recently been diagnosed with early-onset. Through it all, the Alzheimer’s Association has been there for the Steele family. And as far as Hoover’s concerned, running 26.2 miles for them is the least he can do.
“Grace and I want to raise money for an organization that has given so much to us,” he said. “They’ve been there every time we’ve needed them. They provide a 24/7 phone support line, personally meet with families that are afflicted with the disease, and are tireless in their research for treatments and a cure.”
To run for this cause, Hoover and Steele have to be tireless in their own way. Both work full-time – Hoover as a Marketing and Sales Specialist for CaptureCode in Burlington, Steele as a preschool teacher for Botanic Gardens in Cambridge – so finding time to train properly is a challenge, particularly in the fleeting daylight and frigid snows of New England winter. Hoover runs the bulk of his 60 to 75 miles each week in pre-dawn darkness, which is around the time Steele has to be at work, so she runs hers in the late afternoon, as darkness falls again. Only on Saturdays do they get to run together, with the rest of their “Run to End Alzheimer’s” team.
“Being part of a team is such a great experience in itself,” observed Hoover. “We’re training with other people who may have run a few marathons, or this could be their first. But all of us have a personal connection to this disease, and we talk to each other about what we’re going through. Some of the team members are even heading the front end of research or working facilities that care for people with Alzheimer’s.”
And though their schedules keep Hoover and Steele from running together the other six days of the week, their common cause has still brought the two closer, much as facing Alzheimer’s has done to the entire family.
Hoover has known the aptly-named Steeles for only five years, and has never known Margie without her illness. But he’s also never known her without some degree of smile on her face. She can no longer drive, or work at the Cohasset Food Pantry, which she founded, and where she served those less fortunate for years. But never does she let her own bad luck show on her face. And even now, in the late stages of a disease known for turning loved ones into strangers, she laughs with delight in the company of her kids – Caroline, Sam and the marathon-bound Grace. Meanwhile, their father Matt — Margie’s husband of 34 years, and primary caretaker for the last five – has shown Hoover what love and marriage are really about.
“In sickness and health,” marveled Hoover, “has no better example than this case.” The couple is planning a September wedding.
On Marathon Monday, Matt will be volunteering at one of the water stops. As for Margie, she’ll be unable to attend the race in person. But she’ll be watching on TV from home, and cheering on her daughter and future son-in-law from there. Meanwhile, folks across the country will be cheering for what this year’s running of the Marathon means, more than any other before. Here at home, it is embodied by the resiliency, the spirit and the love of a woman named Margie.
For more on Margie’s story, or to make a donation, please visit “Run to End Alzheimer’s-Boston 2014” at http://alz.kintera.org/boston2014/teammargie.