At age 28, Maria Pugliese may not be able to move mountains, but she certainly made an impact when she ran 60 miles across the Andes Mountains and raised more than $3,000 for Cure Alzheimer’s Fund.
On Feb. 3, Pugliese woke up at the site of the starting line in Chile, where she and her running partner, Laura Milsom, set out on a three-day adventure through the Andes to the finish line in Argentina. While Pugliese ran with 1,500 others in the El Cruce de los Andes race, her journey was a personal one.
On the first day she ran almost a full marathon up a dormant volcano (Mocho-Choshuenco). On her last day the terrain was mostly flat and it was a shorter run. It was also the day they got to cross the border. With passport in hand, Pugliese ran into Argentina and finished her long journey in the scenic Lanín National Park, where she received a stone medal that was handmade by local Chileans. “The entire race was an amazing experience,” Pugliese reports.
Maria has been a runner for most of her 20-plus years. She ran cross-country back in Texas at Troy High School. She played basketball there, too. But she was bit by the running bug, and she has been running ever since. She has run the Buenos Aires marathon, in which she raised more than $1,000 for Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. This time, her race will not be down city streets; it will be up a ridge-run, past snow draped peaks and dormant volcanoes.
Approximately 2,600 other runners ran in pairs in February 2012, in the El Cruce de los Andes race. It is not a race to win a medal or a cup. People are running for personal bests and for the sheer beauty of the grueling track. And the fastest runners will receive an invitation to return next year and run with the entrance fee waived! Registration for this kind of event requires a complete physical and permission from your physician. The race is very well organized; tents at night, grills that provide plenty of hot meals, even walkie talkies carried by each team to notify officials in case of problems.
But the problem Maria has on her mind will not be shin splints or scraped knees. A few thousand miles away from the starting point, in a skilled nursing facility in San Diego, lives Maria’s grandmother Dona. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease about seven years ago. Dona no longer remembers her family, and she is starting to have trouble eating. Maria is worried about her, and she is worried about her mother, and yes, even about herself. Alzheimer’s disease killed her great-grandmother and one of her great-aunts several years ago. As a student of nutrition, Maria knows enough about biology to understand that her family is at risk. She is not taking chances. She is (obviously) very active and particular about her diet and health regimen–all excellent strategies for good brain health.
“I want to see this disease cured as soon as possible” says Maria. “I looked around the web site First Giving, and I found Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. The more I read, the more I was convinced that this was the organization that was going to get it done. This was where I want my fund raising dollars to go.” Her running partner, British native Laura Milson, provides moral support and encouragement.