Saturday, July 06, 2002

Run for life

This is for Maggie, all diabetics

        Nearly every morning at 8, Jim McCord resumes his solitary jog across America.

        He's in New Mexico this week, running along a two-lane highway that cuts through drought-stricken plains and dusty, forgotten towns.

        The air is silent except for the sound of his own breathing. Cattle stand motionless in the 95-degree heat. Sometimes he doesn't see a car for miles.

        When drivers do approach, they usually stop. A man running alone through the Southwest is most unusual. Perhaps he needs water or directions. Perhaps he has lost his mind.

        These are the moments that fortify Jim McCord, who has so far completed 980 miles of his fantastic journey.

        These are the moments when he gets a chance to explain.

Looking for cure

        The 44-year-old from Fort Thomas is running across America to push for more federal funding of diabetes research. His 20-year-old daughter, Maggie, has the disease. Every year, about 60,000 people die from diabetes — more than die from AIDS or breast cancer.

        Yet those two diseases get more federal research money per patient, in part because their lobbies are stronger. Mr. McCord would deny nothing to the sufferers of AIDS or breast cancer; he simply wants equal resources devoted to finding a cure for Maggie.

        Thus was born the marathon of all marathons.

        He trained for months, preparing himself to run 24 miles a day for half a year, resting every third day. He sold his house in Fort Thomas and put his real-estate career on hold.

        He created a Web site,, which asks supporters to gather signatures on a petition. When he runs into Washington on Nov. 1, he'll present those petitions to Congress.

        The promise of that day — and the constant flow of e-mail from his supporters — keeps Mr. McCord going.

        It's not easy. His run began May 1 in San Diego, and for several weeks he rose at 4:30 a.m. to beat the punishing sun.

        Friends and relatives take turns accompanying him in an RV, which they drive ahead for several miles and then park, waiting for Mr. McCord to catch up.

        Once, along U.S. 60 in New Mexico, he came upon a curious sight: A solitary man pitching horseshoes next to the only house for miles.

        “I walked over to him and said, "Can I pitch a game with you?'

        “He didn't ask me who I was or what I was doing running out there. He just said, "Absolutely.'”

        Mr. McCord also has given several interviews. But reading e-mail is his favorite respite.

        Long-time diabetics thank him. Strangers tell him about the recent diagnoses of their children. His own four kids check in frequently.

        “Thanks for making me feel so loved,” Maggie once wrote.

        Mr. McCord will pass through Cincinnati in September, with exact dates to appear on his Web site. He invites runners to join him.

        He has never considered stopping, he says, or even riding ahead for a few miles.

        This run is about his daughter's health. It's not a negotiable commitment.

        “If I broke a leg, I'd get a wheelchair,” Mr. McCord says. “I'm not quitting.”

        Contact: (859) 578-5584 or e-mail


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