Rumford woman, 70, seeks support for marathon walk

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Connie Venskus of Rumford, who turns 71 on Sept. 19, is training for her eighth Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk. The event helps support research and patient care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

RUMFORD — Connie Venskus of Rumford has been stepping up her training this summer in preparation for her eighth Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk.

The event supports research and patient care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Venskus, who turns 71 on Sept. 19, has been training all summer for the 26.2-mile walk, which follows the same route as the Boston Marathon. This year’s walk is set for Sunday, Sept. 23.

“I am pretty proud but also feel blessed that I am able to accomplish this,” Venskus  said. “I know that I am far from being an Olympian, but it is still fun and satisfying to do this. It’s the closest I come to being an athlete.”

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To participate in the fundraiser for the Jimmy Fund, Venskus is obligated to raise a minimum of $325. To assist her in this cause, go to www.danafarber.jimmyfund.org/goto/ConstanceVenskus.

Venskus said with the help of many supporters, she has raised $5,756.80 for the cause since 2011.

She said her best walk day at the Marathon Walk was in 2016, when, with the aid of cool crisp weather, she achieved her personal best time of 7 1/2 hours.

Last year was a different story: She finished “in a disappointing 8 1/2 hours, but at least I finished.”

Venskus said the day’s 86 degrees “really sapped my energy.”

“My daughter-in-law, Natalie, did the entire walk along with me, and I was very grateful for that,” she said.

Venskus said Heartbreak Hill is the one section of the walk where participants are not shaded by trees or buildings.

In past years, she said, there was always a water stop at the start of the hill, but not last year.

“I think I came close to experiencing heat exhaustion and dehydration by the time I reached the end of that 3 miles or so,” she said.

“Fortunately, at that point, there finally was a water stop, and after drinking water and putting a baggie of ice to the base of my neck, I was able to continue and finish the walk.”

Asked why she does this event, Venskus said: “I lost two really good friends to cancer around 2011, within a week of each other. I kind of walk in memory of them. It is a wonderful cause, and I would not ever do this kind of walking if I didn’t have a reason for doing it. This is what I do in the summertime.”

She began training in June, with a walk of 3 miles or so.

From her home in the Virginia section, Venskus now walks an 8-mile loop, which takes her over the bridge toward South Rumford Road, then over the Wyman Hill Road and out onto Route 108 up to the union hall, then back.

As the event draws nearer, Venskus will ramp up her distance to 20 miles, which she hopes to cover twice before the day of the walk.

“I know all the measurements of where I can go to get certain mileages,” she said.

According to organizers, an anticipated 9,500 participants are expected for the 30th annual Jimmy Fund Walk, which seeks to raise $9 million to support Dana-Farber.

Walkers can choose from four routes along the Boston Marathon course:

• Marathon Walk (26.2 miles) from Hopkinton.

• Half Marathon Walk (13.1 miles) from Wellesley.

• 10K Walk (6.2 miles) from Newton.

• 5K Walk (3.1 miles) from Dana-Farber.

All routes end at the Copley Square finish line in Boston, where walkers receive medals and can enjoy food, music and speakers.

Venskus said she is proud to be tackling the longest route.

“It’s a good feeling to get it done and, to be honest, I do hurt when I’m done,” she said.

“I always feel really good through the summer because I know I’m doing some good exercise, and at my age that’s always a good thing.”

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