| Dialysis | Kidney disease | Patient stories | Transplant

Running for a Cause: Racing to Raise Awareness for PKD and National Kidney Foundation

February 07, 2023, 10:51am EST

Artiea Smith mid race next to friend holding a sign of support

In the early morning of November 7th, 2021, more than 30,000 excited racers gathered at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island to participate in the 50th anniversary of the New York Marathon. Among the enthusiastic participants was Artiea Smith, preparing to run the 26-mile-long race in dedication to her mother and to raise awareness for the National Kidney Foundation.

Read on to learn why she runs for this cause.

Artiea's connection to kidney disease

Artiea Smith's Mom, Nellie Mae in 2010 with grandsons

Artiea and her family are no strangers to kidney disease–Artiea's mother, Nellie Mae, and eight of her ten siblings were diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease. This inherited disorder causes fluid-filled cysts to grow in the kidneys. Over time, the cysts can replace the kidneys and reduce kidney function until they fail. 

"My aunt's diagnosis in the early 1990s started a snowball effect. Within four years, all siblings started to have symptoms and received their own diagnoses," said Artiea. "Out of the eight siblings diagnosed, five had transplants and all ended up on dialysis at one point. Now, there are only two surviving siblings and one has been on dialysis going on 20 years."

Unfortunately, Artiea's mother got her diagnosis when she turned 60 and spent two years on dialysis before passing from cardiac arrest. 

"My mom knew she had polycystic kidney disease, but she was delaying treatment as long as possible because she was in denial," said Artiea. "I was screened in college. I have some cysts but the doctor explained they can be in a fully functioning healthy kidney as well, so they weren't really alarmed but it has prompted me to change my lifestyle a lot."

Learn how to get screened for kidney disease.

For the love of running

Artiea Smith's shirt says "Team Kidney", "# running for mom", and "#FOE"

Artiea stopped drinking alcohol, changed her diet, and began getting blood work done yearly to monitor her kidney numbers. She also started exercising more, including running behind her children as they rode bikes. It was just a fun mother-son activity until one of her friends stepped in.

"I didn't have a bike so I tried to keep up with them on foot. My friend saw that I ran around seven miles behind my boys and told me I needed to sign up for a race," Artiea said. "During my first 5K, I couldn't run the first three miles without stopping a few times but it got me out there and I really enjoyed it."

Artiea fell in love with marathons and signed up for a few more, including the 2019 New York City Marathon, which she ran in six hours. 

"After the 2019 marathon, I found a group of women called The Rise and Shine because we wake up very early in the morning to do our runs. Most of us are moms or just active busy women. Training with them helped a lot, especially during those long run days,” Artiea said. “My goal was to beat my 2019 New York City Marathon time of six hours in 2020."

Competing for Team Kidney Moves

Artiea Smith at end of race for Team Kidney Moves

Usually, Artiea would have qualified for the marathon through her running times during verified races. Unfortunately, COVID-19 struck, putting everything on hold until 2021, so Artiea opted to compete by running for a charity. 

"I always listed the National Kidney Foundation on Facebook for my birthday and asked people to donate instead of giving me a gift. I include NKF in my annual giving. Considering I also dedicate most of my runs to my mom–especially these big races–it made sense that I choose the National Kidney Foundation," said Artiea. "I'm also very grateful for them because my family has shared many stories of being helped by the organization over the years. They provided a lot of guidance to help us live our best lives." 

Artiea joined Team Kidney Moves and was incredibly touched by the support the team gave her as the race day grew closer: "NKF organized a chat between the runners, shared stories, and held a shakeout run before the race. They checked in often and made sure we were all set up and had everything we needed for race day. It was quite nice support."

Artiea exceeded her expectations on race day by running the course in five hours and thirty-six minutes.

"We had a perfect race day on this electric course. From start to finish, I felt the excitement, because it was the first large marathon after the pandemic. Everyone was out in the streets and there were parts of the race where I felt like we were running through a large tunnel of people," said Artiea. "The energy was so high. Having run marathons in other cities now, I understand why people run New York year after year because there is no race like it."

Join Team Kidney Moves

You too can make a difference like Artiea by starting your own Team Kidney Moves fundraiser. The money you raise helps NKF promote awareness, prevention, and treatment of kidney disease to millions of patients, their families, and tens of millions of Americans at risk. 

It's easy to get started! Just follow these steps:

  1. Create a fundraiser
  2. Personalize the page with your story
  3. Add a photo to make unique
  4. Share it with your friends and family

Are you interested in creating a ticketed or multi-member team fundraiser? Please contact teamkidney@kidney.org, and we'll get you set up!

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