Fifteen years ago, I ran the New York City Marathon to raise money for the Arthritis Foundation. My wife, Elena, grew up with juvenile arthritis, and ever since I knew her, she had been dealing with the condition heroically through dance and also, by creating other kinds of movement that allowed her to expand beyond the body’s limitations. The Arthritis Foundation Team was aptly called “Joints in Motion,” and since I had signed up to raise money, the Arthritis Foundation sent me the Joints in Motion tee-shirt that I proudly wore during my training runs.
Because the tee-shirt displayed “Joints in Motion” in big bold letters, and the Arthritis Foundation was in tiny letters, people started asking me whether I was really going to run the NYC Marathon and smoke joints the whole time. They wanted to know whether this is what they really mean by the term “runner’s high.”
After awhile, I stopped explaining that it was really for the Arthritis Foundation, and literally just ran with it. It was to support the legalization of marijuana, and to show the benefits of marijuana, we were going to smoke joints the entire 26.2 miles. I explained that, next to the water stops, our team will have “Joint Stops”. Also, because marijuana does give runners the munchies, I also would tell people that we had a big “Munchies Table” at the half marathon point in the race.
My fundraising then took off, and I was able to raise over $30,000 for my supposed joint smoking habit. Not only that. As I was running through the five boroughs, I could hear people shout in my direction:
“Look at that guy go! He’s really smoking it!!”
Three years ago, I ran my 16th NYC Marathon. But, a week earlier, I learned that Elena was diagnosed with ALS, or what is commonly known as Lou Gherig’s Disease. Elena and I were no longer together, but we remained very close, and she is still a dear friend to me.
I was stunned to hear this news. I could not get focused on the marathon, but spent the whole week thinking about Elena. The night before, in preparation for the marathon, I did not load up on pasta like many other runners. I went instead to my favorite Chinese restaurant, and asked for an order of the Gung Ho Special.
The waiter apologized and informed me that they were all out of the Gung Ho. I said that was okay. I explained to the waiter that, for desert, I would order an extra scoop of their amazing Mo-Jo Ice Cream. The waiter nodded his head in disappointment, and told me that that, unfortunately, they were out of the Mo-Jo Ice Cream as well.
The next day, I ran the NYC Marathon, but I felt;
I saw my daughter Vita waiting for me at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. I gave her a big hug, and cried for the next two miles. I crossed the finish line two hours later, and that night, I looked up the ALS Foundation, and saw that they had a team running the Chicago Marathon in 2020. I immediately signed up, and planned to run both Chicago and New York last year. Because of Covid, both marathons were cancelled.
On April 18th, Elena passed away after her struggle with ALS.. So, this year, I will be running the NYC Marathon to raise money for research to find cures and therapies to help people who struggling everyday to overcome ALS.
Please go to my Facebook ALS page, and any donation will be greatly appreciated. Too many people out there fighting this terrible disease are gung-less and ho-less, mo-less, and jo-less. This will provide some help so these people can one day get their mojo back.
Thank you for all your support!