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East County Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 3 months ago

Lakewood Ranch woman runs for funds

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Arbor Grande's Donna Marino uses passion of running to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in honor of her father.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

On Dec. 15, Arbor Grande’s Donna Marino celebrated accomplishing a goal she had been working toward all year long.

By the end of her run around Lakewood Ranch, Marino had run more than 1,000 miles in 2020.

“When Dec. 1 came around, I was like, ‘Just don’t let me get hurt,’” Marino said. “That’s what I kept thinking because the only thing that would hold me back would be an injury because we don’t have to worry about snow and ice here. Once I finished it, it was so cool.” 

Marino runs with members of the Lakewood Ranch Running Club three times per week, meeting at 5:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and at 6 a.m. Saturdays. She runs about 20 miles per week.

“There’s truly nothing like that feeling when you finish your run,” Marino said. “It’s just such a good feeling when you start your day like that.”

Marino started running 25 years ago after reading an article about the Boston Marathon in Time magazine.

She would take her son, Peter, who was an infant at the time, for a jog on the 1.5-mile loop in her neighborhood. A neighbor then encouraged her to do the second loop in the neighborhood.

“I was so surprised,” Marino said. “Like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I just ran 3 miles.’”

It wasn’t long before Marino was running 10Ks, half-marathons and marathons. She has completed 25 half-marathons and three marathons.

Marino has traveled to more than a dozen states to participate in races, including Georgia, Alaska, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Tennessee.

Arbor Grande's Donna Marino enjoys running with the Lakewood Ranch Running Club. She is now the vice president of the club.

“Once you start looking at [races], you want to do all of them,” Marino said.

Marino started racing in 2004 in honor of her father, Daniel DePasquale, who died from leukemia at 43 years old.

She would fundraise for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through her race. Since she started, Marino has raised more than $120,000.

“Every year I’d say this is my last race, and then another race would come up,” Marino said. “It’s life-changing. It’s truly life-changing.”

Marino was 8 years old when DePasquale died just 15 months after he was diagnosed.

“I always say when I’m tired of fundraising someday, there’s a little girl who’s 8 years old, and she’s going to hear her father has cancer, and I want her to have a better outcome than I did,” Marino said. “Until there’s a cure, I’ll keep fundraising.”

During the pandemic, running has been a chance for her to connect with some close friends in a socially distant and safe environment, which makes waking up at 4:45 a.m. easier.

“It’s a chance to catch up, and everything’s uninterrupted,” Marino said. “You’re not checking email, you’re not answering the phone, you’re not folding laundry. You’re just there on the road, and it’s so beautiful here.”

Marino said she loves running with some of the more than 80 members of the Lakewood Ranch Running Club because of how supportive the members are and the different levels of running in the club.

Although several races were canceled because of the pandemic, Marino was still able to complete a few. She ran in a Disney half-marathon at Walt Disney World, the Mindful Triathlon in Lakewood Ranch and the Skyway 10K in Tampa.

Marino also virtually ran with her daughter, Angela, in Sydney, Australia’s City2Surf 14K.

She would call Angela during her morning runs as Angela would be training in Australia.

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