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St. Charles cancer survivor finds competitive outlet

For St. Charles resident Jen Lidel, the RBC Decathlon is more than just an athletic event. It's a mission to support those affected by cancer, a narrative she's all-too-familiar with.

As an operations manager at a TradeLink Securities branch in Chicago, Lidel, along with hundreds of other men and women working in the financial services industry, will be participating in the decathlon, a multi-event athletic competition, at St. John's University in New York on June 22, benefiting the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the world's oldest largest and private cancer center, according to its official website.  

Lidel is accustomed to the high-stress responsibilities a person working on Wall Street has, and the decathlon provides a constructive outlet.

“It's really rewarding knowing children and their families will benefit, just from hyper-competitive Wall Street people who want to raise money and compete with each other," she said.

In 2006, Lidel was diagnosed with breast cancer, and after undergoing a lumpectomy and radiation treatment, she has been cancer-free since. With the help of a healthy diet and exercise, Lidel is preparing to individually represent her firm, and compete in all 10 athletic events the decathlon offers; ranging from events focusing on cardiovascular endurance to arm strength.

“I've never really done one of these events and felt like it was anything but just for me,” she said, recalling a recent email to her from decathlon organizers explaining cancer survivors will be coming to the event and thanking those participating. “This isn't about me anymore … this isn't about challenging myself. Now, it's about the people behind us changing lives.”

Lidel is no stranger to rigorous athletic events, having competed in various 5Ks and other races, but she was looking for further challenges, and found the decathlon online last August.

Training for the decathlon has proved to be no easy task, as Lidel regularly finds herself in the gym lifting weights and running, estimating that she spends around 10-14 hours a week in preparation. Since this is the second year women will be competing, Lidel has her sights set on overcoming the top scores posted last year.

“I'm focusing on what it's going to take to beat the field last year,” she said. And “I can see myself [competing] for a couple of years. … It's such a neat cause.” 

All competitors are required to pledge a minimum of $3,000 to compete, but Lidel is striving to go above and beyond, setting her goal to raise $5,000. Through the support of family, co-workers and social media, Lidel already has raised more than $4,000.

The decathlon began in 2008 thanks to the efforts of Dave Maloney and Marc Hodulich, former track team members at Auburn University. Maloney and Hodulich originally started the athletic competition for friends and co-workers after both their mothers battled breast cancer, and later realized their event had “limitless potential.”

After evolving the event to participants exclusively in the financial services industry, $1.4 million dollars was raised for pediatric cancer research in 2013 alone.

Trying to inspire and encourage others to learn about the decathlon and its cause, Lidel urges others to step out of their comfort zone.

“I've never done anything like this, so that aspect of it drives me to try something I normally wouldn't do … it's growth," Lidel said.

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