Chicago Man Running 1,100 Miles Around Lake Michigan for Alzheimer’s in Memory of His Grandmother

Running a marathon in the Midwest during the late winter and early spring sounds a little daunting. Running more than that distance for 36 days straight? Sounds pretty overwhelming. One man is doing just that, though, out of love for his grandmother.

Lee Thornquist’s grandmother Harriet died last year after living with Alzheimer’s for 13 years. In her memory, Lee is running 1,100 miles around Lake Michigan to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association. His current goal is $25,000, but even though he doesn’t begin his run until March 14, he’s already well over halfway there.

He told NBC Chicago, “Oh my gosh! That’s been one of the most surprising parts of this entire endeavor. I haven’t even started running yet and we’re already over $17,000.”


Thornquist’s trek will begin in Chicago. He’ll run clockwise around the lake, cross it at Mackinac Bridge, and head back to the Windy City. A rented RV will trail him, so he has a place to eat, sleep, and take breaks. His father Bruce will serve as a driver during the final stretch.

Thornquist’s mother Sue, Harriet’s daughter, says she knows her mom would be overjoyed to see Lee’s journey.

She says, “My mom would be just like so supportive and so proud of him for giving back and for doing something because my mom was like that. And for doing something athletic, because my mom was like that.”

Thornquist, an avid runner who has completed ten ultramarathons, is chronicling the journey on his website, Running Lake Michigan. In an entry about his decision to do this run, he spoke about his grandmother’s charitable and athletic nature and the impact it has had on him.

He wrote, “I would not be who I am today without my Grandma. No doubt, her adventurous spirit, competitiveness, determination, love for athletics, and mission to leave the world a better place have carried over to our entire family and other people who knew her.”

He also shared how hard it was to watch his grandmother struggle with the disease. He said she was initially diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, and at 13, he didn’t really grasp what was happening or how things would change.

At first, she would lose jewelry more frequently, accidentally throw away full bags of food, or clean when there was no need to do so. However, as things progressed, she had a hard time forming new memories, she forgot names, and her personality slowly changed.

Thornquist wrote, “Yet through it all she continued to teach us about unconditional love, courage, adversity, the fragility of life, and the power of a simple smile. She brought us closer together as a family and gave us a deep appreciation for life. We knew things could be worse, so we were grateful for being able to hug her and hear her laugh.”


He says he hopes to carry on his grandmother’s spirit and legacy through this run and to make a better world for those affected by Alzheimer’s.

To keep up with Thornquist’s journey, check out his website.

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