MANATEE -- Steve Schwalbach laced up his sneakers in Polk County on Monday and resumed his eight-day trek across Florida -- the third state he has run across in over the past few years in honor of his late mother, Jackie, a Sarasota snowbird who died of Alzheimer's disease.
"Jackie's Florida Run" finds Schwalbach, 48, running 230 miles across the state this week with the hopes of raising $20,000 to fight Alzheimer's, which claimed his mother nearly exactly a year ago after a 14-year struggle.
If he hits his goal in Florida it would bring the total he has raised in three states to fight the memory illness to about $60,000.
"When I would come to Sarasota and visit my mother before she died I would think, 'What can I do to help her?'" Schwalbach said by phone a few days before the run started. "I am not a scientist. I am not a doctor."
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But Schwalbach, who has his wife, Lisa and three children, Tyler, 17, Courtney, 15 and Connor, 12. and is in the construction business in Fort Thomas, Ky., a suburb of Cincinnati, figured he could get people to sponsor him running.
"Jackie's Florida Run" began in Daytona Beach on March 11 and it is scheduled to end approximately 3 p.m. Friday at Lido Beach, 1100 Benjamin Franklin Drive, Sarasota. A celebration at the Daiquiri Deck in St. Armand's Circle is scheduled to follow Schwalbach's arrival.
But for Manatee County fans who would like to support Schwalbach or even run with him, he will start the final day of his run at about 7:30 a.m. Friday at the corner of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and State Road 64 in Manatee County.
Dressed in yellow, he will run along Lakewood Ranch Boulevard to State Road 70 before linking with Lockwood Ridge Road, Fruitville Road and the finish line at approximately 3 p.m. at Lido Beach.
Schwalbach raised nearly $38,000 for Alzheimer's by running across Kentucky and Ohio.
"When I first told the Alzheimer's Association in Kentucky that I wanted to run for my mom they said I might raise $5,000," Schwalbach said. "We raised $12,000. We raised 25 thousand in Ohio. I would love to see 20 thousand from Florida."
Schwalbach's weight problem in his early 40s actually sparked his running.
"I was a runner in high school and college but ballooned up to 250 pounds and my wife bet me that I couldn't lose weight," Schwalbach said.
He started running and dropped 50 pounds and tried a marathon and loved it, he said. Before long he had four marathons under his belt and began to think about running across a state for his mother.
"It was 45 days before Ohio that my mom died, so that's when the idea came to me to run Florida," Schwalbach said.
"Jackie's Florida Run" consisted of 22 miles the first day from Daytona Beach to New Smyrna, said Katie Hood, a run spokeswoman.
Schwalbach then ran 30 miles from New Smyrna to Sanford, 30 miles from Sanford to Winter Garden and 36 miles from Winter Garden to Polk City on Monday.
On Tuesday he is set to run 30 miles from Polk City to Bartow and on Wednesday 30 miles from Bartow to south of Lithia. Thursday is 33 miles from south of Lithia to East Manatee.
When asked if secretly he wants to run every state he doesn't deny it.
"I've been asked that question," Schwalbach said. "My answer is that my ultimate goal is to find a cure for Alzheimer's."
For more information on Alzheimer's or to donate to "Jackie's Florida Run" contact the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association at 727-578-2558 or 800-272-3900 or go online at alz.org/FlGulfCoast.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.