Our family has always been a running family. A jogging stroller lived on our porch or dining room for years. We ran when full time jobs became stressful, while Laura and Florence napped as babies, and just exercising our dog. When Florence fell ill with an unknown disease at age two, we increased our running to handle the emotional stress. That disease later was named autoimmune encephalitis (AE). And when AE claimed her life at age 6, we ran some more.
Maybe it’s because running provides a sense of accomplishment or the fact that it’s forward movement toward a goal. When we started the AE Alliance, we knew the first community event would be a race in honor of Florence.
And so on March 1, 2013, the first annual Florence Forth road race was held in Durham, NC. The event included 700 runners, 120 volunteers, 80 police and 21 local businesses! The event was a success raising $11,000 for the Autoimmune Brain Disease Program at Duke University!
But the success wasn’t just having runners show up for the race. It was the fact that the community encircled us in this effort- a local running store donated timing and support, bakeries and cafes gave wonderful food, businesses donated sound equipment, offered free prizes to participants, provided registration tents and more. Our family was blown away by the care and hope that this event created.
Florence died on March 4th, 2012. She left us with a command to “March Forth.” We were inspired by our daughter’s courageous fight against this disease and felt called to share this command with so many others. That’s why we named the road race Florence Forth. You can’t choose what life gives you, but you can choose how you deal with adversity. Florence Forth.
We’ll be back on March 1, 2014 with the second annual Florence Forth road race. Come Florence Forth with us!