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August 2, 2005 > An Iron Will and a Golden Heart

An Iron Will and a Golden Heart

by Ceri Hitchcock-Hodgson

"You're not really an athlete when you start. They train you to be one."

Roberta Ross had participated in numerous marathons. During one in particular as she raced along the hot pavement, she noticed the identification bibs of many runners emblazoned with "Team In Training." There were crowds "hooting and hollering for these people" with the organization she had never heard about. After the race, Ross searched the Internet and discovered that Team In Training (TNT) raises money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, one of the most respected non-profit organizations in the United States. Seventy-five percent of all donations to the L&LS go directly toward research and patient services, a relatively high number among non-profits. After a few months of some of the most grueling training of her life, Ross participated in her first triathlon for the society.

"It was an exciting feeling to be a part of a group like that. Every size and shape of person can be a part. You would be amazed at the type of people you see participating," said the enthusiastic Ross.

The key to TNT's success is that its volunteer staff of coaches, supporting staff and mentors train seemingly non-athletes to become would-be Iron Man Triathlon competitors. Nationwide TNT chapters meet three times a week to participate in training sessions guided by an all-volunteer staff of coaches and mentors. The rest of the week, participants are expected to follow a workout schedule provided by the trainers detailing when and how long they should run, bike and swim.

Ross works with the East Bay region team covering, meeting with team members on Wednesday nights, Saturdays and Sundays for long bike rides and runs for endurance training. Ross is training with the half-marathon group but there are also the marathon trainers and walking marathon trainers - all with a single goal in mind to complete the long haul for the sake of the cause.

Whether it is a walking marathon, a half-marathon, a marathon or a triathlon, the TNT staff, said Ross, "will get you prepared. You will be in the running for any sport you want to do."

Ross' latest challenge is the Big Kahuna, a long-course triathlon consisting of a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run. The race begins and ends at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on Sept. 11. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is the Charity of Choice for the Big Kahuna Triathlon.

Ross has participated in a number of marathons and half-marathons including the Inaugural Nike 26.2 in San Francisco, a marathon for women to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

"I'm always training for something. They're used to it," said Ross when asked how her family has reacted to her constant prepping for the next event.

In return for the intense training, TNT participants raise $3200 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. While Ross has never been personally affected by either of the blood related cancers she said that she trains alongside people who have the disease.

She finds it very rewarding to compete in a triathlon and cross the finish line calling it "an honor." "To know that you've raised money and awareness for this organization is a great feeling," said Ross.

To sponsor Ross in her efforts, please call (510) 226-1644 or email her at

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