Beth Rimmer of Payson is wrapping up the final preparations for a special holiday gift this year. The 50-year-old plans to run 13.1 miles for an 8-year-old girl she's never met and who lives about 2,500 miles away.
On Dec. 3, when the starting pistol is fired at the Tucson Marathon a qualifying race for the Boston Marathon Rimmer will begin running on behalf of young leukemia victim Danielle Schmalfeldt of Little River, S.C.
Rimmer got involved in the marathon, and met Danielle, through her brother, a neighbor of Danielle's family.
"He's been running for a long time and frequently runs marathons for the Leukemia Society of America," Rimmer said. "When I started running last January, I told him, 'Gee, maybe we ought to run one of these together.' That's when he put me in touch with Danielle.
"We've never met or even talked on the phone. But she and I became fast Internet buddies, and I've been communicating with her mom. I decided to run the marathon for her as my inspiration," Rimmer said.
Danielle recently finished a series of chemotherapy treatments, and the day after the marathon, she'll undergo testing to see if the treatments were successful to any degree.
"She goes to school and she's pretty brave about all of this," Rimmer said. "Her mom said Danielle is kind of worried, because a lot of her friends (with leukemia) have relapsed after starting to go into remission. Some of the procedures are very painful, I know."
Rimmer knows the pain of chemotherapy because she shares a common bond with Danielle.
"I have chronic active Hepatitis C, and I go on and off chemotherapy," she said. "A week after the race, I start my treatments for the third time. But the kind of chemotherapy I undergo is not as strong as what Danielle undergoes.
"But having gone through it myself, and getting ready for the next round to try to get a remission, I know what she's going through. Chemotherapy really makes you sick, and it's really difficult to complete the nine months to a year you have to be on it. I just can't imagine being a kid going through this. It's so hard as an adult."
Born in Long Island, N.Y., Rimmer came to Payson five years ago when her cardiologist husband of 18 years, Robert Rimmer, was recruited by Payson Regional Medical Center to run the Intensive Care Unit. A registered nurse, she also works as a personal trainer.
"I've always been into weight training," she said. "But because of my liver condition and vascular malformations, my doctor said, 'You can't do that because something could burst.' So I said, 'What the heck. I'll start running.'"
Rimmer isn't kidding. She runs four or five days a week, from five to 13 miles a stretch. "I'd run seven days a week if I could, but I need time to heal. These are old joints," she said with a laugh.
"When I first started, I could do a minute or so, and then stop, then another minute and stop. Now, I still find it hard to believe that I can go for two hours without stopping. It amazes me what the body can do."
Getting herself into top physical shape isn't all Rimmer must do to prepare for the Tucson Marathon, however. After all, she's running for Danielle.
"I am challenged to raise funds for leukemia research, patient aid, education and bone marrow donor programs," she said. "I am asking everyone to please help me achieve these goals by sponsoring me in the marathon."
Rimmer, who is paying her own expenses for the trip, has raised about $1,000 so far. "People can (donate) $5, $10, anything they want to help Danielle and others like her," she said.
To sponsor Rimmer in the Tucson Marathon, call her at 472-8361 or 474-0916. Sponsors also can mail checks made payable to the Leukemia Society of America to HC 4 Box 3C, Payson, 85541.