Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ask and you shall receive

A few weeks ago, I went running along the Charles wearing a relatively new Saucony jacket, in which I placed my car key, only to find it missing from my pocket upon returning to my car. This killed me, because a few years ago I lost a different car key along a similar run. That time, I had stopped for a mid-run snack and forgot to zip up my pocket, so the key fell out. Since then, I've been very conscious of the state of my zippers at all times, so you can imagine my confusion when I saw that the pocket was in fact zipped, but the key was gone! Unfortunately, the pocket was attached to the jacket by iron-on hemming tape instead of an actual stitch, and a small bit of the tape had come undone, exposing a hole at the bottom of the pocket. $337 later, I had a new "smart key" provided by the Toyota dealership.

My new favorite company
Saturday, at the DFMC team training run, I was talking to a woman named Paula, who complimented me on my choice of jackets. It turned out that she was a rep from Saucony who had come to the meeting to demo running gear and provide support to the team. She gave me her business card and asked me to email her with the story of the lost key.  I wrote it up, and indicated that I didn't need any more gear, but they were more than welcome to aid my fundraising effort. The next morning, Saucony made a $337 donation. I was pretty excited about this - at best I had expected an apologetic response and a gift card, but this was a much more meaningful gesture.

I also had an awesome run on Saturday.  I had planned on 16 miles, and after the first 5-mile turnaround, I found myself running alongside a pack of girls who were actually running my pace. My new friend Amanda convinced me to stick out another 2 miles with her, which I did, finishing an 18-mile run with an average pace under 7:40/mile. Six weeks ago I was hardly running at all and still in PT for my hip-- so I was feeling pretty good with this run.

I'm very appreciative of my experiences this past weekend. The people at Saucony made me realize that many people are willing to give money towards this cause, so long as someone simply asks them. My run with Amanda reminded me that I'm a pretty good runner, and that all of this effort is not only relevant to the stories of my own friends and family, but to a lot of others as well.

Everyone I've met running with Dana-Farber, like Paula and Amanda, have had similar stories about the ways in which they've been impacted by cancer. Few have said "I wanted to run the Boston Marathon and DFMC was my ticket into the race." I heard from two different people on Saturday that they recently lost someone, almost suddenly, due to pancreatic cancer. I've spoken a lot about melanoma and prostate cancer, because of my high risk, but I knew nothing about cancer of the pancreas, so I figured I'd take a look at what the Claudia Adams Barr Program has been doing in this realm.

I found something pretty interesting: it's apparently been discovered that an anti-malarial drug called hydroxychloroquine is effective in shrinking or slowing the growth of pancreatic cancers:

Hydroxychloroquine is a drug that inhibits “autophagy,” a process that enables cells to break down and eliminate structures such as damaged cell membranes. Cancer cells use autophagy to outwit chemotherapy treatment: by activating this process they survive the stress of therapy. Alec Kimmelman, MD, PHD, with Barr Program support in 2009-‘10 discovered that autophagy is turned on all at all times in pancreatic cancer cells suggesting that pancreas tumors are highly dependent on autophagy and therefore good candidates for autophagy-inhibiting treatments. Testing with mice treated with the drug, the treatments were found to be very effective and Dr. Kimmelman plans to move to human trials soon.

I strongly believe in the mission and impact of the DFMC team. In my last post, I wrote about how much I enjoy running, and I am certainly excited about running the Boston Marathon-- but that's not why I'm running for DFMC. I'm part of this team because I wanted to do something to raise awareness, and money, for the fight against cancer.

With that being said, I've decided I won't be satisfied by hitting my goal of $6500, which I expect to surpass well before Marathon Monday. I've raised my fundraising goal to $8000 and with your help, I'll get there.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Why I Run

Every member of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team is encouraged to film a "Why I Run" video call. I won't be filming one-- writing this blog is already a bit of a stretch for me putting my feelings out on the internet. But, if you listen to what other members of the team have to say, you'll notice some similarities. My guess is that most people would pick one or more of the following reasons:

  • I lost [someone] to [some kind of] cancer
  • [someone] was treated at Dana-Farber and survived
  • This is my way of making a difference in the fight against cancer
  • I love running and it's my dream to run the Boston Marathon

I could certainly film a video in which I enumerate the reasons why I'm running with the DFMC team in the 2013 Boston Marathon, many of which would sound similar to those above. Instead, I thought I'd try to articulate a more general answer to the question "why do you run, Jeff?" Or, more specifically, "why the heck would you want to run 26.2 miles all at once, Jeff?" Many people have a hard time understanding why anyone would pursue such an endeavor, so I'll do my best to share my own personal reasons.

There are a few parts to my answer, and believe it or not, "because it's a good form of exercise" is most definitely not one of them (although its effects can't be ignored). This notion was introduced to me in high school when I learned, in physical education, that one of the requirements of a passing grade was to run a mile (yes, a single mile). In college, after my body stopped growing and my metabolism became inversely proportional to the amount of pizza I would eat after a long night of drinking beer on Friday night, I thought, "maybe I should run" (perhaps, two miles before exhaustion set in) in order "get fit."

Wrong answer.

After college, I got a bit of a taste of my enjoyment of the sport while running a few (~three?) miles up and down Santa Monica beach. Sometimes on my own, others with my roommates, but almost always with a gorgeous sunset on the horizon and waves crashing into sand a few hundred feet from me.

Over the following years, thanks to my move to the east coast as well as my job which required me to travel a fair amount, I had an opportunity to run in some interesting places:

  • Central Park, NYC
  • Fort Lauderdale Beach (in February- wish I was there now!)
  • Amazingly well-maintained bike paths in a number of different fly-over states (even I remembered the names of the towns, you probably wouldn't know where they were)
  • Martha's Vineyard
  • Downtown Toronto
  • A cold country road in Cumberland, Maine, with a warm home awaiting for me upon my return
  • Along Lake Michigan in Chicago
  • San Francisco: down California Street, Embarcadero, sunrise over the Bay Bridge from Telegraph Hill and then back up Lombard Street with the new friend who would later become my wife (if that isn't romance, I don't know what is).
  • One of my favorites: down the mall, across the Potomac and back, in DC.

The list goes on, but the place where I've literally logged hundreds of miles over the past few years is where I truly discovered the answer: The Charles River, which, by the way, looks remarkably different since my last post after the ridiculous amount of snow we got over this past weekend.
A few years back, while working at Endeca, some co-workers of mine and I started running during our lunch breaks. We typically made a loop between the Longfellow and Mass Ave bridges (~2.8mi). At some point, my friend Jack and I decided to extend the loop to the Museum of Science (~3.8mi). And then we extended to the BU Bridge (~5.7mi)

Philadelphia Marathon, 2011
Jack and I also started running faster. In high school, the idea of an 8-minute mile was a dream. During 2010-2011, Jack and I were shaving 5s+ of our pace every week, and by the time I ran the Tavern-to-Tavern 5K in August of 2011, I set my 5K Personal Record of 19:43 (6:19 min/mile), placing 6th in my age group and 18th overall in a field of about 600.

I started entering races with friends, or by myself. I ran 3 half marathons over the course of a year, and then decided to run a full. I ran the Philadelphia Marathon with a time of 03:33:26, placing 1654/10312 finishers in November of 2011.

I run because it allows me to experience the world outside on a regular basis, to ignore the demands of normal life and open my eyes to the beautiful world we live in. I never run on a treadmill. I run because it provides a meaningful connection to other people that doesn't revolve around "dinner or drinks." I run because it offers me a challenge-- I know I can always get better, and yet, I've never been disappointed with a race time. But mostly I think I run because at this point it has become part of my identity-- no other hobby, interest or activity feels like "mine" in the same way.

And I'm running the Boston Marathon on April 15th, 2013, because I have an incredible opportunity to participate in the world's ultimate race and, in the process, raise money for a cause that is very important to me.

If you have yet to make a donation towards my run with the DFMC team and would like to, please donate online or mail me a check, made out to Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge. I'm running in memory of my grandfather, who passed away from prostate cancer three years ago, and all proceeds go to the Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.