Why I'm Running the Chicago Marathon

Why I'm Running the Chicago Marathon

At 40, I’m not the kind of guy who loves to work out and I’ve never been a gym rat. But, because I’m 40 I need to workout and stay healthy. I don’t want to be obese. I don’t want getting off the couch or walking up a flight of stairs to be an aerobic event!

I need goals and deadlines when it comes to working out. Two years ago, I did a triathlon because it was on my bucket list. This past year I wanted to summit Kilimanjaro for my birthday with my buddies but they had no interest, Vegas instead. I didn’t let that blip deter me. I found a group and we’ll be summiting Kilimanjaro in early 2015. As I was doing research, I realized you have to be in shape and train for this “hike.” The best way for me was to set the goal of running the Chicago marathon. After that, I only need to stay in shape for three months to make the long walk up kili.

I’m not one to talk much about family or the volunteer charity work I do in my own time. I know that to run the marathon you can take your chance in the lottery or run for charity. I decided this was a way to give back a little or a lot if I don’t raise my goal! So after looking at the various charities I found the American Cancer Society.

I chose them because now I won’t just be running for me during this race. I’ll be running for three other people – in memory of my step dad, my mom and my good friend Carolyn. My step-dad Gary was diagnosed with brain cancer 7 years ago. If you don’t know much about brain cancer, it’s a death sentence. The cancer rarely will spread but it will kill you. The light at the end of that tunnel is the train. My dad took the last 10 months in stride and taught me a lot about life. I was lucky enough to tell him that. I still miss talking hockey and going to Bear games with him. Some days it feels like it was yesterday. This was the first time cancer came in to my life.

Less than a year after my dad passed, I came back from vacation and my mom told me she had tested positive for Stage 1 breast cancer. I’ve been afraid of things in life but I’ve rarely seen fear. This wasn’t the way life was supposed to be for her. She lost her hair, wore a wig and battled through chemo. I know more about cancer than I’ve ever wanted to know because of the doctor and oncologist visits. I’m thankful for the team of doctors and nurses who took care of my mom made it a lot less scary. They were the same people who helped my dad.

About 6 weeks after getting the news about my mom, I got a series of texts from my friend Carolyn whom I’d met in culinary school. Carolyn is a lot like me, stubborn and UBER competitive. If one of us got an A, the other had to get a higher A. We HAD to work at the best restaurants. Carolyn told me she had been diagnosed with the same kind of cancer as my mom. When we eventually spoke, I could hear how frightened she was and I did my best to console her and send awful flowers to cheer her up.

Both my mom and Carolyn beat cancer and began to move on with their lives. But, cancer is a bastard of a disease and seems to strike back even when you think you’ve won. It sows doubt and lingers even if you feel healthy. Those afflicted always live in worry – will it come back again?

August of 2013 my mom was diagnosed AGAIN with breast cancer. It was very early stages but she choose a much more aggressive treatment. Her old fears resurfaced and she began to worry about my sister and what genetics she may of passed along to her and her granddaughter. I did my best to be the rock and again learned a LOT more then I ever wanted to know about aggressive cancer treatment.

With my mom recovering from surgery, I got a call from Carolyn that her cancer had also returned. It felt like a vicious circle, a kick to the gut. How can this be happening? I was lucky to see her the weekend after her surgery in San Francisco where she lives – mom and Carolyn have gone through the same things one at “60 something” and Carolyn thirty years her junior. I made a point to get back out to see Carolyn to cheer her up and because I’ve learned life is WAY to short. I wanted to reconnect with my friend and maybe take a little burden off of Alen her husband. I had an absolute blast that weekend and plan to go out again after her next surgery for more walks, talks and lots of food – especially the ice cream.

Cancer is a motherfucker. It can rob you of a loved one in weeks or months or literally put the fear of death in to them for life. I don’t know if I’ll personally ever be affected. Yet, if I can help raise some money to help prevent my sister or niece from going through what my mom and Carolyn did – how can I not? I don’t want someone to lose a someone they love before their time.

So I guess I’m running for them and the others who have been hurt by this disease. It’s one of the largest killers on the planet. I’m posting this with 200 days until the marathon. I have a coach, the will and the goal to fulfill. I need to raise $1,000 or $5 a day.

If you’d like to help and donate to the American Cancer Association you can. I won’t be writing about this often or begging through emails. I’ll hit you up only once or twice. I’ll keep those who donate in the loop on my training – it isn’t fun. I hate to run. But I’d rather run and raise money because its less fun to go to a funeral. When I’m tired or sore, I think of them and it gives me the strength to finish. It’s cheesy but if they can fight for their health I can fight to finish a race.

If you’ve never been impacted by cancer, to me you’ve won the lottery. If you can help, I’m very grateful. When I get to the top of Kilimanjaro, I know I’ll have a couple more people there in spirit with me and it will have been one hell of a journey.

To donate please click on this link - American Cancer Society Marathon Donation. 

Joe Campagna is the Chicago Food Snob. A former restaurant General Manager, Server and Chef you can find him on twitter @chifoodsnob. You can reach him through email at joe@chicagofoodsnob.com

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