My name is Colleen Oakes, I grew up and reside in the Chicagoland area where I have been a runner since 2000. I competed in my first cross country season in 2003 to stay in shape for high school basketball and fell in love with the sport. I was eventually recruited for track and competed in the mile and 2-mile. Collegiately, I ran the 10,000 and 5,000 meter runs and the 3,000 meter steeplechase (which I absolutely love!) for North Central College in Naperville, IL.
Through a fall 2003 aid-station volunteer opportunity with one of the cross country coaches, I discovered the Chicago Marathon. It was amazing to see all of these determined and happy people competing in this world-class event. I kept these experiences in mind (along with an old LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon aid station hat) throughout the years and set a goal to eventually give the marathon a try once I finished my last NCAA season. Since 2011, I have run the Chicago Marathon from 2011-2015 (and will run again in 2017), the London Marathon in 2015, the Berlin Marathon in 2016 and set personal bests in four of the seven races.
I began running on behalf of Smile Train starting with the 2014 Chicago and 2015 London Marathons as a way of running for more than just a personal time. It was through the London Marathon group that I formed a relationship with Smile Train Team EMPOWER and ran the 2016 Berlin Marathon to continue to support them. I found it heart-breaking that some of these people are abandoned and even killed as a result of a condition they have no control over. In addition, little things we take for granted, like eating, speaking and breathing properly, become an everyday struggle for someone with cleft lip/palate. I think it is amazing that Smile Train has served over one million patients and how for as little as $250 and 45 minutes, they can change the life a person who otherwise may not be able to live the life they deserve.