ST. JOHN | Scott Graber had always told himself that he was going to run a marathon.
He would go through the training, run the 26.2 miles and have the ultimate bucket list moment when he crossed the finish line.
Graber just couldn’t find the motivation to get the process started, until real life snapped everything into place.
“We had a thing at (Real Life Community Church) and people were running for kids in Africa who needed clean water,” Graber said. “Then Anna passed away. That made the decision for me.”
Anna Murdock was a fifth-grader at Clark Middle School, the school where Graber works as the principal, when she passed away from cancer in January. Murdock was unable to attend school last fall, but she had begun attending classes for a few weeks before she suddenly landed back in the hospital and passed away.
“We were just to the point where we were going to start adding a little more to her day when she was in my office on a Friday and told me she didn’t feel good,” Graber said. “Her mom came to get her and that was the last time I saw her. I still have that visual memory of her sitting in the office telling me not to worry.”
If Graber needed any kind of motivation to run in his first marathon, he had found it. Shortly after Murdock’s death, Graber set the goal of running in Sunday’s Chicago Marathon and he hooked up with Team World Vision to help raise money for children in Africa. The school made bracelets in Murdock’s memory and Graber has worn one during each of his training runs, often drawing motivation from his former student.
The most stunning motivation came during a Saturday morning run in August that put everything in perspective for Graber. While taking part in a 9-mile training run in Chesterton, Graber hit a physical wall after the first 6 miles. He told his running partners that he would meet them at the finish line, and he began to slowly walk the rest of the path.
“Anna loved butterflies and it was bizarre, because as I was walking, here come two butterflies that were right in front of me,” Graber said. “Call it fate, call it something, but these two butterflies stayed with me until the finish line. I let her parents know right away and they were very touched.”
Murdock’s parents will be waiting at the finish line when Graber completes his first marathon Sunday afternoon. As a member of Team World Vision, Graber set a goal of raising $50 per mile for a total of $1,310. He is currently more than $200 over his goal.
Graber won’t be worrying about his time Sunday or where he places in the race. His only goal is to honor the memory of Murdock and bring awareness to the water epidemic in Africa.
“We can turn on our sinks at home and get water while there are kids in Africa who have to walk two or three miles to get a bucket of water,” Graber said. “Running this marathon won’t take away the fact that Anna passed away and it won’t take away the fact that kids in Africa don’t have water. The marquee at school says ‘Make A Difference.’ I’m hoping to make a difference on Sunday."