Sister Stephanie Baliga, a talented runner and ebullient nun with the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels on Chicago’s West Side, ran a treadmill marathon on Sunday, August 23, to raise money for the Mission’s community outreach.
She finished in 3:33, running in her church’s basement, and raised more than $100,000 for the cause—as of 3 p.m. EDT on Monday, her fundraising tally was at $104,911.
The day after her run, Sr. Stephanie, 32, was not recovering with her feet up. Instead, she was moving boxes of food around to prepare for the Mission’s weekly food distribution, when they give a week’s worth of groceries to 700 families.
When Runner’s World asked how she was feeling, she replied, 'You know, marathon-ey. I’m mostly sore because I didn’t train, not necessarily because of where I ran.'
The event was broadcast on Zoom, and various supporters joined in to keep Sr. Stephanie company, including her parents, other runners, and clergy. Deena Kastor, American record holder in the marathon, made a special guest appearance in the final mile.
When Kastor’s face appeared on the screen in front of her, Sr. Stephanie yelled, 'No way! What? Deena, I cannot believe this.' (You can watch Sr. Stephanie’s entire run on the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels Facebook page, and Kastor enters at about 3:58.)
Even at mile 25, Sr. Stephanie hardly seemed winded. She said she had a fan blowing on her and the space was air-conditioned. She holds a marathon PR of 2:53:49, so her 3:33 wasn’t too taxing, although she did maintain a pace of 8:07 per mile.
Sr. Stephanie heads a popular charity team of marathoners at the Chicago Marathon every year, and they usually raise more than $200,000 for the Mission’s efforts, which include outreach to senior citizens and after school programming, in addition to the weekly food pantry. She recruits runners to the team and helps write training plans if they need guidance.
With the cancellation of Chicago due to the pandemic, however, charity runners have been forced to get creative with their fundraising efforts.
Kastor told Runner’s World in a text message that she loved seeing Sr. Stephanie’s run. 'I meant to cheer her on during her last mile of her treadmill marathon,' Kastor said, 'and instead I felt refreshed and inspired by her, her energy, her purpose, and her compassion.'
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