Saturday, April 8, 2017

BOSTON STRONG

Following is a story I wrote about a young local runner, which appeared in today's edition of the Pottsville Republican Herald newspaper. www.republicanherald.com

Each of the more than 26,000 runners who will toe the starting line at Hopkinton, Massachusetts, on April 17 for the 121st running of the Boston Marathon has a story.
Often the road one takes, the hardship one endures, and the obstacles one encounters can be more difficult than the 26.2-mile journey from Hopkinton to the finish line on Boylston Street.
Schuylkill County will be well-represented at this year’s Patriots’ Day classic.
New Ringgold’s Lisa Georgis, Father Christopher Zelonis from Saint Clair, Meredith Boris from Schuylkill Haven, Steve Boucher from Zion’s Grove, Schuylkill Haven’s Rick Devaney, Orwigsburg’s Michelle Kemmerle, Ashland’s Scott McCormick and Pottsville’s Rachel Schoffstall all have demonstrated the unique drive and dedication necessary to qualify for the Boston Marathon. All have their own stories of successes and setbacks.
But the most compelling story of all of the marathon runners from our region is told by a young man from Tower City.
Timmy Harner is only 31 years old, but running the Boston Marathon has always been an item on his bucket list.
A veteran of two previous marathons, Timmy was no stranger to hard training and long-distance running. But on Halloween 2015, as he completed a training run, he felt unusually fatigued. Two days later, he was able to run only a block before he was forced to turn around and go home. His training pace, which usually averaged about 8 minutes per mile, had increased to more than 12 minutes a mile.
“It felt like I ran a marathon,” Timmy recalls. “Immediately, I knew something was wrong.”
He visited his family doctor, underwent a series of blood tests, and 10 days after his tiresome training run, on Nov. 10, 2015, he was officially diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Four years prior to being diagnosed, Timmy lost his grandmother to the same disease.
The next few months for Timmy were both difficult and life-threatening. On Christmas Eve he was rushed to the hospital with a 106.2-degree fever.
He wanted to give up. His life, at such a young age, he felt, would never be the same. Instead he valiantly held on, and in March 2016 he received a life-saving bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor. Less than a year after his diagnosis, he was cancer-free.
Exactly a year to his diagnosis date, Timmy received the phone call of a lifetime: he was accepted onto the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training. After a year in which he suffered, battled and beat cancer, his dream of running the Boston Marathon would come true.
His survival, he thinks in part, is due to the strength of his fellow cancer patients, as well as the help of his friend and nutritionist, Ryan Matter.
Still, he often feels “Survivor’s Guilt” when he thinks about the folks who were unable to beat this terrible disease.
So Timmy has dedicated his effort at the Boston Marathon to “Aidan.”
Aidan was hospitalized in 2009 and was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. He lost his battle with the disease and died. He was only 9 years old.
Timmy reached out to Aidan’s parents, and learned that they and their friends plan to run the San Diego Marathon in June and hope to raise $100,000 to fund a research grant in Aidan’s name. Timmy Harner has personally raised more than $12,000 for Aiden. His fundraising site is: http://pages.teamintraining.org/vtnt/boston17/tharner.
Harner hopes to run the Boston Marathon in a time of 3 hours, 45 minutes, which is an average pace of 8:45 a mile.
In Timmy’s words, “I am still here, fighting every single day and cannot wait to cross that finish line on April 17.”
A marathon is a long race, but to Timmy Harner, it may feel like a short jaunt.
He has already traveled a very long road.