Megan McGee was one of 25 runners who participated in a relay stretching from New York City down to Washington, D.C. over the weekend.
Many people celebrate World Down Syndrome Day on March 21 by wearing mismatched socks. It’s a good conversation starter, after all. Plant City resident Megan McGee, however, took it a step further when she put her running shoes on.
McGee and 24 other runners from around the United States teamed up last weekend to complete the fourth-ever Run for 3.21 event, hosted yearly by the National Down Syndrome Society to fundraise and draw attention to the cause. The three-day event is a relay-style run starting in New York City and ending in Washington, D.C.
“This is such a meaningful event for everyone involved,” Kandi Pickard, President and CEO of NDSS, said in a press release. “The team’s commitment to raising funds and awareness, on top of training for the physical challenge of this relay event, is truly a testament to their dedication to the Down syndrome community.”
McGee, an avid runner, has been involved with NDSS since 2017 and regularly participated in the organization’s charity racing events before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My daughter was born with Down Syndrome and she ended up having really complex medical diagnoses,” McGee said. “It was a way to help me cope with everything going on with her. I found the NDSS Athlete Ambassador Program, where you could get involved in charity racing, and that was my way of helping to advocate for Sara and fundraise for a cause I feel strongly about.”
Last year was tough for her and other NDSS charity racers as all of the scheduled events were canceled. This Run for 3.21 was McGee’s chance to do some fundraising and still get the in-person running experience she missed out on last year, even if this was neither a race nor a competition.
Most of McGee’s teammates hailed from the east coast, but a few came from as far as Texas to participate. She said many of the runners were fully or at least partially vaccinated and those who weren’t were tested within days of the event.
This relay’s structure is pretty straightforward: runners complete a total of 71 legs in teams of two, with pairs driving to their next planned starting point after completing a leg and handing off to the next group. This year’s Run for 3.21 featured a virtual element where the nine runners who couldn’t participate in person instead contributed by running where they lived and counting the mileage toward the team goal. So, for example, if an in-person team ends a leg in a town in New York and hands off to a virtual runner, who runs a leg of 3.5 miles run in Florida, the run will resume in-person with a new team that starts 3.5 miles from where the last in-person team finished.
McGee and her teammates logged more than 260 miles and more than 48 hours total on the ground, day and night, running through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Washington, D.C. She finished her last leg Sunday morning as every team member who ran in-person got together for the home stretch and ended at the Lincoln Memorial.
“It was awesome,” she said. “Very tiring, but it was just a really inspiring experience to be able to do this with a bunch of other advocates.”
Anyone interested in participating in the next Run for 3.21 event or becoming a charity racer like McGee can start at NDSS.org, keeping an eye on the Events tab.