“I feel like I have been running all of my life,” Diane Hunke explains. “I grew up with eleven siblings, eight of which were brothers. I remember how we were always racing each other. When I was in elementary school, I especially enjoyed running with my twin brothers as they trained for and competed in our hometown Special Olympics.” Diane, a Montana native who now lives in Colorado Springs, CO, has had a running career that has spanned from her childhood, through her career in the army, and has continued into her life as a mom and elementary school employee. Now, Diane has decided that she wants to use her running as a way to give back to others. She will be running the Denver Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon with the Project Purple team on October 18, 2015.
Diane began running as a young girl. She ran track in middle school and loved it. However, in high school, she began developing back pain while on the run. She tried to keep running for two more years, but her coaches finally told her that because running caused her so much pain, perhaps she should look at other sports. Diane played volleyball in high school and continued playing as her recreational sport when she attended Montana State in Bozeman, MT.
While in college, Diane was approached by military recruiters. Though she was interested in a career in the military, she was concerned about the physical fitness requirements. She explained to the recruiters that she could not run. The recruiters told her to simply try her best. Diane discovered that whatever issues she had as an adolescent seemed to resolve on their own. She could now run again and she loved it. Diane won the Physical Fitness award in boot camp, in part because she was such a strong runner. To this day, she is extremely proud of winning this very competitive award..
Diane spent seven years in the army as a Spanish Linguist. During that time, running played a big role in her personal and professional life. She was constantly competing for fitness awards against all of the members of her battalion. She found she thrived in competition and enjoyed the early morning training runs with her peers. “Some of my fondest memories are of running when the sun was coming up,” Diane remembers.
Diane and her husband Paul had two children, Kindra and Ben, while they both served in the military. The demands put on a dual military couple can be tremendous, so Diane and Paul made the decision that Diane would separate from the Army three months before Paul was commissioned as an Air Force officer. Diane left the army in 2001 so that she could focus on taking care of their family. Diane ran throughout her military career, during both of her pregnancies and after her children were born. As her family grew, she continued running. “I pushed them in the double jogger until their heads were busting out,” Diane recalls.
Now, that Kindra and Ben are both in high school, they run with Diane. The kids ran competitively in middle school and now they run to stay in shape for swimming and marching band season. Diane says, “Whereas I used to run for myself, and to compete against other soldiers, now it revolves around my kids. I want them to see me running and know that it is an important part of my life.”
Diane has run numerous races over the years. She participates in a wide variety of local runs in the Colorado Springs area. She has run everything from smaller 5ks to the famed Pikes Peak Ascent. Diane has run one full marathon, but has found that with her speed, she really excels at and prefers races that are half-marathon distance or below. Diane has learned over the years that running is a great way to connect with people. “I have met so many awesome people through running,” Diane explains.
Running has helped Diane cope with losing both of her parents in recent years. Her father passed away five years ago as a complication from diabetes. Her mother passed away suddenly three years ago from a congenital heart condition. Though both losses were tough to bear, the unexpected passing of her mother was particularly shocking. To help deal with the difficult losses, Diane turned to running and the friendships she made through the running community.
It was through her connections to the running community that Diane learned about Project Purple. Diane had long thought that she would like to find a way to give back to the community through her love of running. Diane and I originally met at the elementary school where my daughter was a student and where Diane works in the Significant Special Needs department. We chatted and learned of our mutual love for running. We saw each other at races around town. Diane learned of my own battle with pancreatic cancer, and was inspired when a mutual friend, Jenny Brooks, ran a marathon for Project Purple as part of the pioneer program. Diane says, “Your fight is one of the main reasons why I run these days. I am having problems with my feet. I took a break for a while and found that I was depressed a lot. I didn’t feel like it was time to quit yet. Then I met you and felt like I needed to do something to help others who are fighting, and those who have passed away. I sometimes struggle when I run, but I think of you and it gets me through the run. I have been doing so much running for myself. I felt like it was time to change that.”
Diane has done some novel things to fundraise. She has given a “thank you” gift of home-made stamped greeting cards to people who have donated. Recently, she held a garage sale and gave all of the proceeds to her fundraising campaign. Through her use of unique efforts and incentives, Diane has found that fundraising is not as difficult as one might think. She is pleased to be giving meaning to her miles and has enjoyed training runs with her fellow teammates. Please consider making a tax deductible donation to Diane’s Project Purple fundraiser by following this link to her Crowdrise page: