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Green sisters a running story

Charities benefit from the race

By Shira Springer, Globe Correspondent, 04/18/99

ROOKLINE - Sisters Rachel and Tamarah Green are not compatible. At least, that's what the doctors said. Rachel's blood type is A positive. Tamarah is O positive. The two do not match and should not mix.

But then, what do doctors know?

When Rachel learned in November 1995 that she could not donate a kidney to her sister, she was devastated. Tamarah suffers from IGA nephropathy, a degenerative kidney disease that requires hemodialysis three days a week. In 1996, the 31-year-old was placed on the national waiting list for a kidney transplant.

Since 1997, Rachel has run the Boston Marathon to raise funds for the National Kidney Foundation. It seems A positive can give to O positive after all.

Rachel has vowed to run every Boston Marathon in honor of Tamarah and raise money for the National Kidney Foundation as long as her body allows.

''I had decided when she was diagnosed that I wanted to experience a little bit of pain in a very different way and raise money and awareness for the Kidney Foundation,'' said Rachel. ''I didn't want to go the traditional route and volunteer my services.

''I decided to do something very extreme and, with only 6 miles as my longest run, I decided to train for a marathon. By the time I got to 12 miles, I told my family what I was going to do. I knew that once I said it, I was committed to it. It was at the dinner table and I think there wasn't a dry eye.''

Said Tamarah, ''I will probably never be able to run a marathon, but it's something that I've always dreamed of doing. In a way, I'm doing it vicariously through her. I get to experience and enjoy it as much as she does.

''It's so exciting for me to tell friends that my sister is running the marathon. And more than just running the marathon, she's running the marathon because she loves me.''

This year, 15 official charity organizations will be represented in the Marathon by 1,000 runners. In 1998, the same 15 groups raised $3 million.

Among those joining Rachel on the starting line in Hopkinton will be cancer patients competing for the Leukemia Society of America, blind athletes raising money for the Massachusetts Association for the Blind, a woman fighting multiple sclerosis raising money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The Muscular Dystrophy Association, National Spinal Cord Injury Association, Special Olympics, American Red Cross, Children's Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and American Liver Foundation also have fund-raising runners entered.

In her three years as a charity runner, Rachel estimates that she has raised nearly $20,000 for her cause. The marathoner generates most of her money with a letter sent to friends and family. It starts with details of Tamarah's most recent struggles and concludes with a donation form. Rachel also hosted a pre-marathon party April 10, with a $10 cover charge going to the Kidney Foundation.

Centering fund-raising efforts around the marathon was an easy choice for the Green family. The 26.2-mile trek has been a family tradition from the time Rachel and Tamarah watched the runners pass by Cleveland Circle with their parents and three older sisters. Now that Rachel runs, there are designated viewing checkpoints for the family in Natick, Wellesley, Newton (at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill), Brookline, and Copley Square.

''Once you get to Heartbreak Hill, your legs are already fatigued and you feel like you can't go on,'' said Rachel, who will wear number 13,918 tomorrow and hopes to break four hours. ''That's when you say, `I'm doing this for Tamarah. I'm doing this for every single person who donated to the campaign.' I picture their faces and that's what gets me to the end.''

This story ran on page C25 of the Boston Globe on 04/18/99.
© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.

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