By Caroline Brooks
McLaughlin is running the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 8 for a cause near and dear to the master’s program: Unite 2 Fight Paralysis (U2FP). This organization encourages runners and wheelchair athletes to raise awareness for spinal paralysis, and find a cure by racing in any event, from 5Ks to marathons (support McLaughlin and U2FP by visiting his marathon page).
“I was inspired to run for U2FP when I heard that it was an organization that my classmate Kathryn Mahoney was a part of,” McLaughlin said. As an undergraduate at Michigan State University, Mahoney sustained a paralyzing spinal injury while competing on the women’s gymnastics team. “Her perseverance and positivity inspired me to challenge myself and do what I can to help others who face spinal injuries and paralysis,” McLaughlin said.
While Mahoney, a member of Team U2FP, no longer competes as a gymnast, she refused to let go of her competitiveness and athletic lifestyle: she has handcycled and played wheelchair rugby for the last two years, and believes the mental and physical benefits of adaptive sports and the surrounding community are immeasurable.
Determined to contribute make an impact on U2FP, McLaughlin began marathon training while balancing an internship with Lear Corporation, working in the Broad Network Resource Center, applying for jobs, and finishing his last semester of the MS BA program. McLaughlin has been training solo in the metro-Detroit area during the work week and camping on weekends, and plans to become a regular along the Lansing River Trail when he returns to campus.
“The greatest challenge I face is the impact that the training has on my body, and keeping up with everything when I feel sore and exhausted after a run or the day after a run. I’ve always felt more focused and organized the busier my schedule is, so in many ways, the training offers more routine in my life which I can appreciate. I’m confident I can handle the balance but it certainly is a challenge,” he said.
Managing time to accommodate a rigorous training schedule, course work and program obligations, part-time work, job-searching, and other engagements might frighten some. But for these students, they’re in the marathon together.