Poolheco gets spot in New York’s Marathon through “Team Tillman”

By Patty Talahongva
News From Indian Country 10-09

When thousands of runners step up to the starting line of this year’s New York City Marathon, Jeanette Poolheco, a Hopi from Arizona will be among them.

She’s tried for two years to get into the hugely popular marathon but was never drawn for the event. She got in this year by joining “Team Tillman.”

It’s named after former NFL and Arizona Cardinals player, Pat Tillman. He left the NFL to join the Army after the attacks on 9/11. Tillman was killed in Afghanistan in 2004. Now the foundation his family set up gives out scholarships to veterans and family members of veterans.

In order to join Team Tillman each runner had to pledge $4,000 to contribute to the foundation. Excited about the opportunity to run in this prestigious marathon and contribute to the Pat Tillman Foundation, Poolheco signed up and started raising money in addition to training for the grueling race. “It’s harder to get people to dig deep into their pockets to donate than it is to train,” she laughs. So far she’s raised about half of the money. She hopes to get more support from Indian Country.

She also wants to stand tall next to her father and brother who have both run in the Boston Marathon. She also has her sights set on that marathon in the future.


The trip will also be her first to the Big Apple. She’s excited to finally be able to race in it and is busy training for 26.2 mile city course by running in the desert. She’s been employed by the Gila River Indian Community near Phoenix for more than ten years and has adapted well to the desert climate. “I’m not a great runner. I’m not a slow runner,” she explains and adds “when I compete with other Hopis I do good.”

At age 51 she’s a great role model for anyone. Even though she ran track in high school she didn’t keep it up. Not too long ago she found herself tipping the scales at 215lbs and like so many American Indians she was diabetic. But something snapped and she made a choice to change. “I started walking at night,” she shared. Eventually she didn’t care who saw her walking or running and pretty soon Poolheco had dropped more than 65lbs.

Today she’s an active member of the Gila River Running Club and she motivates others to think about their own life choices on exercise and good diet. She’s excited to be representing Hopis and Tewas as the world watches the runners hit the streets of New York. She’s happy to accept any donation saying, “Ten dollars goes a long ways.”  To donate on Jeanette’s behalf you can go on-line to: http://teamtillman-nyc09.kintera.org or you can mail a check to: Pat Tillman Foundation 2121 South Mill Ave., Suite 214, Tempe, AZ 85242. Be sure to write her name in the memo line.

And if you know of a veteran who could use an extra scholarship, Heather Schader the Public Relations and Marketing Manager urges folks to visit their website to learn more and apply for a scholarship.

On The Net: www.pattillmanfoundation.org