Monday, May 5, 2003

All runners endure for good causes



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They run to find a cure or heal a wound. They run to remember and to forget. They run to satisfy a need, not always their own. They run away from something and toward something else: A bad relationship, a clean slate. A notion that starting today, everything will be different.

That's something worth running for.

They run because someone told them they couldn't. "You must be crazy," someone said. And maybe, a little, they are.

They don't run the Flying Pig Marathon for the prize money, because there isn't any. What could be more pure? Who does anything for free now? Boston pays its male and female winners $80,000 each. New York offers its champions $65,000. Cincinnati gives you nothing but a priceless I-did-it. All any runner wants from the Flying Pig is a triumph of self. "I was just curious to see how fast I could run," John Aerni said, and he was the winner.

Runners start
Runners take off along Mehring Way.
(Photo by Craig Ruttle)
Photo gallery
The Pig is a test tube for why we love athletics and what they can mean to anyone willing to learn the lessons they teach. Lara Gray ran eight months after giving birth to her second child. Her goal was to finish in less than 5 hours. She made it in 4:45. "I just wanted to say I could do it," she said. "And I did."

Larry Batten ran because "I didn't have Ohio yet." Batten has bagged six marathons in the last year, in seven states. He ran three in six weeks, between October and December.

Scott Joseph raised $1,000 for cystic fibrosis research. Patrick McCormack ran for his friend Lowell Mount. McCormack was at the 10-mile mark when he noticed a clot of runners wearing purple shirts, announcing their support for the Leukemia Foundation.

Lowell Mount died of leukemia two weeks ago. "Lowell, I'm going to finish this thing for you," McCormack said to himself. He was running alone, "trying to take positives from negatives" when he saw the people in purple. "I prayed for Lowell. He helped me" the rest of the way, McCormack said. McCormack finished the Pig in 4:29 last year. This year, he crossed the line in 3:47.

And then there is Kevin Heidrich, the Edgewood, Ky., man who inspired 130 runners without taking a stride. He remembers the day doctors diagnosed him with ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease. It was in August of 1998. He was 37.

They started running for Kevin four years ago. Four marathoners collected pledges on his behalf that year; Sunday, the count was 130. You knew them by their orange shirts, bearing the words FOR KEVIN. Kevin estimates his runners will raise $75,000 this year. The ultimate goal is $500,000. The state of Kentucky would match that, providing a $1 million endowment to the medical center at UK, for patient services. Who wouldn't run for that?

"Very humbling," Kevin said, from his wheelchair. "Not just for me, but for the 300,000 other ALS patients."

And so it went. A man with a transplanted heart ran. A man with Parkinson's disease ran. It's physically punishing to put one leg in front of the other for 26 miles. It takes a lot from you. It wouldn't be worth it, if it didn't give you back so much more.

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E-mail pdaugherty@enquirer.com

Daugherty: Flying Pig Marathon




FLYING PIG MARATHON
Complete results | Photo gallery
Locals hog marathon wins
All runners endure for good causes
Aerni, Veneziano marathon champs
Couple tie knot after race
Veneziano first beats traffic, then the field
Not every winner is new

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