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East County Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011 8 years ago

Creekwood resident runs marathons to help manatees

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by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

CREEKWOOD — When Wendy Lynn Parlier crossed the finish line of her first marathon about two years ago, she didn’t finish in record time — or even in what’s considered a “good” time — but she had completed the biggest goal of her life.

She believed the triumph would propel her further on her pathway to health.

“I thought I was going to run two weeks later, and then I woke up one day and realized it had been a year since I put on my running shoes,” Parlier said. “I didn’t miss it.”

But Parlier did miss how she felt afterward and the confidence she’d gained from dropping about 70 pounds. And she realized, if she wouldn’t run for herself, she would have to do it for a cause.

“I thought, ‘What would motivate me enough to do this on every continent?’” Parlier said. “It would be to help manatees and dugongs (another large water mammal similar to the manatee).”

In conjunction with World Oceans Day last month, the Creekwood resident launched her campaign, Marathon Aquatica, a quest to help protect manatees and dugongs by running seven marathons on seven different continents.

“I wanted to show supporters that I’m willing to go to each continent … to show my commitment and to ‘take’ my supporters along for the journey with every challenging step of a marathon,” said Parlier, who loves to travel. “Every step that I take will represent one more step taken to help protect manatees and dugongs.”

Parlier’s North American fundraising campaign, dubbed “Share Our Space … With Manatees” will benefit the South Florida Museum’s Parker Manatee Aquarium, where Parlier volunteers once a week as part of the manatee care team. Her first marathon is the Space Coast Marathon Nov. 27 near the Kennedy Space Center.

Parlier will cover the costs and associated travel expenses of her race and subsequent races but is seeking sponsorships to benefit the manatees and dugongs directly — with cases of lettuce or financial donations for their food.

The lettuce, which comes in $25 cases, will feed Snooty, the museum’s resident manatee, as well as manatees and dugongs being rehabilitated in the Parker Manatee Aquarium. Parlier is hoping to raise $25,000 in sponsorships by Dec. 1, to help offset the roughly $75,000 annually the museum spends on food for the aquarium.

“I’m on a journey to health, but the manatees at the South Florida Museum are also on their pathway to health,” Parlier said. “(The museum is) putting a great investment in helping these manatees return to the wild.

“I’m willing to go the distance,” she said. “But, I’m just running the marathon. It’s everybody else who’s going to help the manatees.”

Although Parlier’s first marathon will benefit manatees and dugongs in the care of the South Florida Museum, she will be working with other well-established U.S.-based, non-profits that have programs for manatees and dugongs on other continents. Parlier said she is eager to help educate the public about each non-profit and the plight of manatees and dugongs, which are declining in number because of loss of population, overhunting and other causes.

“It’s a chance to help causes all over the world,” Parlier said. “(This first race) is the most ambitious one. This is a $25,000 goal.”

At more than 200 pounds, Parlier is quick to point out she is not an athlete. She shed 70 pounds while training for her first marathon but recognizes she still has a long way to go before she’ll be able to accomplish all her goals.

She hopes to improve her time with each race, and must if she wants to finish. The marathon in Antarctica, for example, has a six-and-one-half-hour time limit, while the race in West Africa has a five-hour time limit.
To stay accountable to donors, Parlier is posting her training schedule, as well as her progress, on her blog, www.marathonaquatica.com/blog, and on Marathon Aquatica’s Facebook page.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

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