Three years ago, JC Alejaldre (Executive MBA in Healthcare Administration, ’18), lost his mother, Aurora, to cancer. An avid runner, she frequently told her son that her dream was to one day run a marathon.
“Sadly, she died before she was able to do that,” says the Zicklin School of Business alum. But ever since then, he had it in the back of his mind to complete a marathon in her honor.
So when JC’s employer, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, formed a team to run the 2022 New York City Marathon last month while fundraising for cancer research, “It was a no-brainer,” he says. “To run with Team NewYork-Presbyterian while raising money for the cancer center on my campus, where my mother was treated — it all aligned.”
Armed with an exercise plan from his sports colleagues, JC started training with a buddy about three months before the race. Between his two jobs — he’s a specialty care administrator at Columbia University Irving Medical Center as well as an adjunct professor in that institution’s School of Public Health — they would train in the early mornings and evenings, building up to one long, 17-mile run: “The sports people said you never do the full 26 miles — you get close to that number and then ‘Jesus take the wheel,’ so to speak.”
Meanwhile, JC’s fundraising page was heating up. As the November 6 marathon date approached, he zoomed past his initial goal of $3,500, so he moved it up to $4,000. Then he pushed it up again, this time to $5,000 — which he also surpassed. “It’s very inspiring for me, to know that people have given me so much support and love,” he says.
Besides fundraising, JC’s goal was simply to cross the finish line. “I joked with my friends that as long as I beat the street sweepers, that was a win for me,” he laughs. But on that unseasonably warm race day (74 degrees!), he found an energy source he hadn’t expected.
“I’ve come out on Marathon Sunday many times to watch the race, but to experience it as a runner was incredible,” JC says. “It was like one gigantic block party. Often I felt I couldn’t go on, and then I’d turn the corner and there was a crowd shouting my name and cheering me on. I fed off that energy.”
As JC reached mile 23 while running up Fifth Avenue, he found himself awash in emotions. “I realized I’m actually going to finish this thing,” he says. “I kept thinking about my mom and how happy she would have been to witness the marathon. As I was crossing into Central Park — one of her favorite places — I started choking up.”
In the end, JC finished with a time of five hours and 30 minutes and has raised $5,875 from 77 individual donors as of this writing. One of those donors was Dean Fenwick Huss, a friend since JC’s days in the Executive MBA in Healthcare Administration program.
“Our Zicklin community is like a unique family,” JC offers. “Dean Huss has been a supporter of mine since we met, and I got so much love and energy from my cohort when I told them I was running the marathon. To think we were all strangers only a few years ago!”
He sums up: “I hope my story inspires other Zicklin folks to run, even if it’s just a 5K race, for whatever cause or individual who’s made an impact on them.”