Michele Rowe Ran 26.2 Miles to Honor Her Mom’s Memory

This year’s New York City Marathon is fast approaching, and we’re proud to have a contingent of runners who will help raise money and awareness on behalf of Harlem United. One of those runners is Michele Rowe, who isn’t new to running marathons. In fact, when Michele ran the marathon for Harlem United last year, she had a deeply personal reason for doing so.

As Michele was approaching her 40th birthday, she realized that she was also approaching the age at which her mom died, a very young 43 years old. Wanting to do something that would honor her mother’s memory and support others dealing with a similar loss, Michele turned to running. Having always been a runner and a physically active person, she felt like running the New York City Marathon was the logical choice to share her story.

While this would not be Michele’s first marathon, it would be the first one she would actually train for. Thirteen years prior, Michele had shown up for the marathon completely unprepared. Her longest run leading up to race day was only six miles, and she had no idea what she was in for. This time Michele would show up prepared, with a new mindset and a much better trained body.

Training for this marathon, in honor of her mother’s memory, Michele had an opportunity to reflect on her mother — the mother she only knew for the first 14 years of her life. Before her mother got sick, Michele remembers, she was kind, goofy and funny — and, much like Michele, always exercising.

Michele’s mother, Gail, got sick quickly and unexpectedly. Michele’s parents were high school sweethearts who married early and then divorced. Within five years of remarrying, Gail was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and then was hospitalized for other medical issues. Her condition deteriorated quickly, and she passed away soon after. At age 14, Michele lost her mother and cut ties from her stepfather, who passed away six years later.

Michele, who had blocked out this portion of her life, began to consider her own long-term health for the first time. At age 22, she decided to find her mother’s medical records. Only then did she discover that a few days prior to her death, Michele’s mother was tested for and diagnosed with HIV.

Fast forward through a marriage, the births of three incredible children, a successful business in fitness, and hours and hours of training, and Michele showed up in a big way. On Sunday, November 1, 2015, Michele dropped more than an hour from her previous marathon time, wearing a smile through the entire 26.2-mile route. She raised $7,000 for Harlem United in the process.

We’re honored that Michele has chosen to run with us for a second year and proud to share her powerful story. Michele has come a long way while sharing the message that HIV can happen to anyone at any time. Those of us infected, and those of us affected, deserve to have our voices heard.

There’s still time to support Michele and the other runners in reaching their fundraising goals. Take a look at all the runners and pick one (or two)  to support.