Why do we run? For many reasons. It can be for a reason as simple as getting a little exercise. Or it can be for a more noble purpose.
Kristen Hallock-Waters falls into the latter category.
Sunday morning, Hallock-Waters, 38, an assistant professor of chemistry at Richard Stockton College, will embark on her second ING New York City Marathon as a member of Team McGraw, which raises funds to combat brain cancer. It was a tumor - a glioblastoma multiforme brain tumor - that felled the former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher on Jan. 5, 2004.
The same day, Hallock-Waters sat in an emergency room with her husband, Jeff. He had suffered a seizure. And as they sat watching the evening news reports of McGraw's death, they had no idea the same diagnosis - devastating is how Hallock-Waters describes it - was coming their way.
As he fought his brain cancer, Jeff Waters participated in a couple of studies at the Tug McGraw Center for Neuro-Oncology Quality of LIfe Research at Duke University Medical Center. One of his nurses was a runner, and on Nov. 4, 2007, she ran the New York marathon in honor of Jeff as part of Team McGraw, to raise funds for the McGraw foundation.
Jeff died Nov. 26, 2007. Not long afterward, Hallock-Waters - never a runner - began to hit the road.
"I started running and cycling a lot after he died, mainly as a way to get out of the house and deal with my grief," the Tabernacle, Burlington County, woman says. It wasn't long before she decided to run New York's marathon as a member of Team McGraw herself.
Her inaugural effort came in 2008, less than a year after her husband's death. And it couldn't have started more ominously. Just steps into the 26.2-mile course, she slipped on someone's foil heat sheet (they're used to keep you warm) and sprained her ankle.
"I knew I had to get moving," she recalls. "Or I would get trampled."
So, off she went across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, running and walking through the pain. There were tears, moments where her emotions got the better of her and she couldn't catch her breath.
But then there were the moments when the groundswell of support from people lining the marathon route propelled her on. And the thought that if the Team McGraw shirt on her back catches the attention of even one person, it's worth it.
She finished the race in a little more than six hours.
Hallock-Waters is quick to point out that numbers on the clock mean nothing to her.
"It's not about the time for me. The time doesn't matter to me. It's about being there and raising awareness and raising funds to help other people with brain tumors," she says. "I would like to do a little better than that this year, but it's not about the time."
Yes, after enduring one marathon, she's back for a second helping this year.
Monday, a crew from WCAU-TV 10 came to Hallock-Waters' home for a story scheduled to air between 5:30 and 6 p.m. Tuesday. The attention isn't something she craves. But it's a necessary evil she'll gladly endure if it means highlighting a cause she holds dear.
Even if the whole experience is bittersweet.
"Yeah, it is. I never would have taken up to run a marathon if he hadn't passed. I do it because I do it for him," she says. "I certainly wish he was there. I wish he was there at the finish line to give me a big hug. I wish he was. I miss that."
For more information about the Tug McGraw Foundation, go to www.tugmcgraw.com.