This is a story that has several parts, but right now I’m raising money to fight esophageal and stomach cancer. If you can contribute, I’d be truly grateful, just click here to drop a few bucks in the hat.
I am running the New York Marathon in November, and this fundraising effort is a celebration of my father. Dad meant the world to so many of us, and I’m honored to have this opportunity to do some good in his honor. The team I’m running with is supporting the DeGregorio Family Foundation, which is dedicated to helping fund research for treatments of esophageal and stomach cancers. These diseases are terrible, and detection is difficult, making treatment that much harder.
Running a marathon won’t bring Dad back. Running with a team to raise money to fight the disease that took him will help another family, and I can feel good about that.
How I Got Started
Here’s the story behind my original running mission.
Before I started running at the age of 42, the prior time in my life that I ran with any regularity, I was a student at Grace Community Christian School, playing soccer. We probably ran two or three miles per practice, maybe more. I played defense. My objective was to keep Jason Knaupp, my goal tender, from ever having to touch the ball. We played together for just one season; Jason would succumb to Leukemia within a year of our last game together.
On April 15, 2013, when the Boston Marathon was attacked, there was a small voice in the back of my head asking, “What about running Boston someday?” The rest of me knew that voice was insane, so I ignored it.
I was 42, and had gained 5 pounds a year since moving to New England five years prior. At five foot eight, I was tipping the scales at over 205 pounds. A BMI of 31. I’d had foot surgery the year before on the tendons of my right foot, and my left ankle had become a mobile barometer, telling me any time the weather was changing. I was still months away from a Bursitis diagnosis or learning that I have developed bone spurns in my left heel. I was sedentary.
Right around that time, a competition was kicking off at work. It was a “race” to a million steps. My company handed out pedometers, and all you had to do was record how many steps you racked up on a weekly basis. I’m pretty competitive, and really wanted to win. I was in third or fourth place when I got sick, and by the time I got better a week later, I had dropped out of the top ten. The steps were simply taking too long to accumulate; long walks weren’t going to do it. I had to start jogging to keep up with my competition. I climbed back into the top ten, and finished my million steps in 75 days.
The next opportunity for some extra fitness came with a “Cube to 5K” program, also at work. Coach Lee from the Beverly YMCA came by once a week and a group of 15 coworkers would go stretch and run together. By the end of the program, I was running four or five times a week. Three days before the 5K, I managed a slow 10 mile run on the treadmill. No hills, but still not bad. Further than I had ever run, treadmill or not. By this point, that voice in my head was starting to get loud.
“So… Boston… How about it?”
I knew I would never qualify based on my speed. I started to do some research, and saw that the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has a team that runs Boston. Right away I quit looking. I knew I had my team.
Within two weeks of submitting my request to join the team, I received word that I was accepted. Seven months later, I finished the marathon. Together, my supporters and I raised over $9,000 to fight blood cancer. VERY cool.
After running Boston, I didn’t feel that I could invest as much in the fundraising when I decided to run a second marathon in 2014. I chose a race with small enough fund raising commitments that I could pay all of it myself if need be.
I chose the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. Great course, flat, big field, and the minimum fund raising objective was 90% less than it was for Boston.
Wounded Warriors Family Support is an organization dedicated to helping soldiers and their families. I raised money for this worthy cause as part of my second marathon. Much thanks to those who helped me reach those objectives.
Next I signed up to run the Chicago Marathon as part of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training. Together, we raised over $5,000 to support eradicating blood cancer.
I dedicated this effort to the memory of my father, who passed away in January of 2015.
Dad didn’t have a blood disease, but I’m chose to run with LLS again because of all they good they do. LLS funded research doesn’t just help people with blood diseases. It’s one of the most powerful research arms in this space, with therapies and drugs developed to fighting Leukemia, Lymphoma, and other blood diseases helping patients with many types of cancer.
Because I dedicated the effort to Dad, I trained harder than ever for this marathon. I know he’d be proud.
The purple heart ceremony photo comes courtesy of the US Army’s Flickr page, where they posted it with a Creative Commons attribution license. They retain all rights.