Sponsored content provided by The Jacquelyn Project.

Marshall Dahneke ran the 2023 Boston Marathon to raise funds for massage therapy community service grants in honor of his daughter, Jacquelyn, who passed away from breast cancer in early 2022. His fundraising efforts to date have raised over $ 84,000 for the Massage Therapy Foundation and cancer relief.

Marshall Dahneke (L) and his son, Rulon Dahneke, who ran the 2023 Boston Marathon to raise funds for massage therapy community service grants.
Marshall Dahneke (L) and his son, Rulon Dahneke, who ran the 2023 Boston Marathon to raise funds for massage therapy community service grants.

Checking on Goals

Some days it feels like The Jacquelyn Project just began—but here I am, summarizing the outcome. Where did the time go? When I began, my goals were to:

• Honor my daughter’s legacy by raising $50,000-plus for the Massage Therapy Foundation to fund cancer-relieving community service grants.

• Offer self-care advice to encourage improved health, longer careers in massage as well as better counsel for clients.

• Promote massage as my preferred wellness, recovery, and healing intervention

• Show up to run a great Boston Marathon, representing my daughter, sponsors, and the entire massage profession as proudly as possible.

• Connect massage therapists with our great sponsoring brands who care deeply about supporting this profession.

Let’s check in on these goals now that we are at the end of The Jacquelyn Project’s first phase.

Honoring Jacquelyn

While I hope and pray that none of you has to go through the loss of a child, one particular sunbeam that broke through those very dark clouds was learning just how much Jacquelyn served and supported others, even while she herself was fighting a long-term battle with a deadly disease. Not once or twice but a continuing flood of comments, personal messages and posts reinforced her ongoing efforts to lift others regardless of her own circumstances.

Fundamentally, extending a healing hand to those in need is the core of The Jacquelyn Project—continuing my daughter’s legacy of service by raising funds for Community Service Grants administered by the Massage Therapy Foundation. Such grants provide hands-on relief to cancer patients, people walking through some very dark days indeed.

Not knowing whether brands would be able to sponsor this project in the face of a worsening economy, I set an initial goal to raise $50,000. Given that so many brands generously embraced our cause, we increased the target to $75,000 as our final goal.

A great microcosm of this generosity is Tom Heidenberger, a generous double-brand sponsor of The Jacquelyn Project, who offered, “As both a long-time supporter of and former Boston Marathon runner for the MTF myself, I jumped at the opportunity to sponsor Marshall and The Jacquelyn Project with my new brands, CBD Therareleaf and Pura Wellness, advanced formulations that offer unique benefits to massage therapists and their clients. Having also lost a close family member to cancer, I am fully behind the idea of funding community service grants to bring healing hands to more struggling people during their darkest hour.”

At the time of writing this, we have raised a little over $84,000 with additional donations still expected. It has been incredibly gratifying to experience such a generous outpouring of human kindness, so aligned with my daughter’s approach to life.

Marshall Dahneke crosses the finish line at the 2023 Boston Marathon.
Marshall Dahneke at the course of the 2023 Boston Marathon.

Offering Self-Care Advice

Since August 2022, I’ve provided self-care and wellness advice to the massage profession via two powerful platforms, a monthly column generously hosted by our Platinum Media Sponsor MASSAGE Magazine and a monthly blog hosted by the Massage Therapy Foundation.

While drawing heavily on my own wellness transformation, I have shared how a deliberate and daily focus on self-care priorities— including adequate nightly sleep; properly fueling and hydrating the body; consistent exercise; seeking for and leveraging helpful tools and expertise, especially massage therapy; taking precautions to avoid injury and promoting daily recovery; while embracing a resilient mindset—can lead to amazing results.

Before embarking on my own personal health-improvement journey, I spent several decades not prioritizing my wellness, ballooning to 230 pounds with super-high cholesterol levels and a resting heart rate well above 100. Our bodies are amazingly resilient. After personally embracing the advice I have dished out to you, I was able to lose 85 pounds, returning to and maintaining my high school weight. My cholesterol level plummeted into the good range. My resting heart rate is now in the mid-40s, not uncommon for runners.

Promoting Massage

I applaud this 2018 message from Des Linden, a two-time Olympian and the 2018 Boston Marathon Champion: “Self-care is absolutely critical and is at the heart of my training and recovery regimens. Massage therapy is a big part of my routine, along with physical therapy and a wholesome diet. Training for long distances is a difficult endeavor. Massage therapy helps me prepare, recover and reset physically and mentally. It also helps me get the good night’s sleep that I need to give it my all.”

Like Des, massage has been my primary recovery and recalibration intervention throughout my training. I would never contemplate a race without a massage a couple of days prior. Also, recovery is so much smoother with my post-race massage a few hours afterward.

Another generous sponsor of The Jacquelyn Project is Massage Heights, a leading U.S. and Canadian chain of massage and skincare retreats that are locally owned and operated by small-business leaders. My experiences at Massage Heights reinforced their passion for sustaining a culture of care and creating work environments where people feel valued, accepted and inspired. I felt that!

Massage Heights, is passionate about supporting the massage therapy profession through initiatives like The Jacquelyn Project. Through our gold sponsorship, we are aligning with Marshall’s purpose of spreading awareness of the benefits of massage for those suffering from cancer and cancer-related challenges, as well as raising money for the Massage Therapy Foundation,” said CG Funk, senior vice president of Culture and Industry Relations. “Massage therapy is a unique career, and the work of massage therapists is more important than ever in our world today. We are honored to be a part of Marshall’s vision.”

Showing up for Boston

I have learned so much about running in the past 12 months! I was so naïve—making reservations a year ago for a Boston hotel before I ever ran my first marathon. I assumed that all I had to do was commit to the goal and all would be well. While things worked out for my first three marathons, this last cycle has been a very different experience.

Ironically, after all of my wellness advice, showing up prepared and ready for the Boston Marathon became my greatest challenge. I improved my personal best time in each marathon I ran and had aspirations to make Boston my best yet, despite the well-known challenges of this hilly course with unpredictable weather. After increasing my weekly training miles following each previous marathon, I agreed with my coach that I wanted to reach 60-plus miles per week in order to really build endurance, while adding in even more hill- and speed-training work.

While one of my greatest strengths is willpower and determination, I’m afflicted with a corresponding weakness of impatience. As I scaled up my training, I pushed too hard too fast and caused a stress reaction in my right tibia.

Pain forced me to significantly cut my running miles in mid-December, substituting stationary bike and elliptical cross-training. Following a February MRI I was counseled to stop running altogether and my focus shifted from arriving at the start line prepared to run well to simply arriving as healthy as possible. A plaque in my office reads, “There may come a day when I cannot run—but today is not that day!” I was forced to accept that today became that day during this recent training cycle.

Regardless of my inadequate preparation, showing up during a cold drizzle on race morning was beyond exciting! The idea of participating in the world’s oldest marathon and running with purpose—on behalf of my daughter, of our generous sponsors, for the MTF, for those suffering through cancer like Jacquelyn did, and for my very recently deceased friend, partner and cheerleader Lynda Solien-Wolfe—added deep meaning.

Yes, it was cold. Yes, it rained and every runner got soaked. Yes, my tibia hurt with stride one and those darn glutes began acting up even earlier than normal as I was so undertrained. None of that mattered and none of it diminished this magical experience!

I confess I became emotional multiple times as I contemplated Jacquelyn and Lynda, hopefully cheering us all on and carrying me on angels’ wings. Despite being cold, I refused to wear a layer beyond my running singlet as I was not going to cover my sponsors’ logos—or the names of so many generous individual contributors printed on my arm sleeves and joining me on this 26.2 mile journey.

While my finishing time of 4:44:25 was terrible (for me), I could have cared less about pace and only about crossing that finish line, with and for family. During the final mile I stopped to wait at least 15 minutes for my son (also an MTF runner this year) so that we could cross the finish line together for Jacquelyn and now also for Lynda! It was the right call and will provide so much more meaning and better memories than a faster finish time ever would.

Since I already qualified for Boston in 2024, I plan to return healthy and strong to deliver what I was not able to this year, a great Boston Marathon performance representing Jacquelyn and Lynda, our sponsors and the entire massage profession as proudly as possible.

Connecting Therapists with Great Brands

I love this profession, because it first loved me. Massage therapists are big-hearted, service-oriented and welcoming. As the former CEO of Performance Health, I consistently felt most welcome at massage events and partnering with massage profession leadership and educators who project such positivity.

Massage became my preferred beneficiary for the funds we raised and to deliver the healing power of touch, the ultimate aspiration of The Jacquelyn Project’s running for cancer relief.

Ultimately, each and every one of you will have the greatest impact on accomplishing this fifth goal of connecting therapists with great sponsors. While I recruited these brands and had great personal experience integrating their powerful value propositions into my own training and recovery regimens, it is up to you to decide whether to give their product or service a try, to reward them with some of your time, attention and interest.

Since they have already contributed so much to this profession, I sincerely request that you give them a try and the chance to earn your loyalty. Please offer them the same welcoming embrace that I received when I was first introduced to Massage.

Sharing Deep Gratitude

The true measure of success is not achieving every goal in life. I feel it’s more about how many times we can rebound from a setback. To paraphrase author Vivian Greene, success is learning to dance (or run), even in the rain. I extend my deepest gratitude for all who have supported me and especially The Jacquelyn Project. I pray that this passion project will improve the lives of many in need through so many of your healing hands!

About the Author

Marshall Dahneke is the grateful husband of Michelle and proud father of six wonderful children, a lover of massage, former CEO of Performance Health, 2016 Massage Hall of Fame inductee, and aspiring endurance athlete finding his way to a better way of life. Visit The Jacquelyn Project’s home page for an overview of the project, sponsor highlights and a donation link.