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"Finish Your Race" to help end acute myeloid leukemia

BY ELIZABETH WHITTINGTON | MAY 10, 2010

At age 49, Don Armstrong received a diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia, an aggressive form of leukemia. Now at age 54, after five rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplantation, he celebrates his "cancerversary" of being in remission for five years, with a pledge to help eradicate the disease.

Armstrong developed the Finish Your Race (www.finishyourrace.com) campaign and committed to run 10 races (five marathons and five half marathons) with Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training program this year. He started in February and will finish up in December. His goal, in addition to running nearly 200 miles, is to raise half a million dollars for the LLS (you can check out his fundraising progress here). He also hopes to raise awareness of blood cancers and support patient services programs.

He began his marathon of marathons in his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. A couple of weeks ago, he finished the marathon in Columbus, Ohio. Next stop is San Diego. The farthest he's traveled for a marathon this year is Paris, France.

To help him reach his goal of half a million dollars, Armstron is up for a $250,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project. This is a similar grant contest that Drew Brees, Superbowl-winning quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, won for his city's ACS Hope Lodge ("Congratulations, Drew Brees").

If Armstrong is one of the top two vote getters by May 31, he'll be awarded half of his goal. "That's a big deal. All $250,000 will go through Finish Your Race to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society," he says. "It's really exciting to me to be involved in funding a research project to help future patients, in terms of diagnosis and treatment, and hopefully eliminating the disease in the future."

I have a cousin who is training for the Team in Training marathon in San Diego. I've been receiving updates for the past year on her upcoming marathon and fundraising, sending her encouraging notes, and marveling at all she's accomplished. I'm so impressed by all she's done to prepare for this one marathon and the money she's raised for LLS. And she's running ONE. Armstrong is running 10. It certainly puts it into perspective for me.

I've also learned about all the hard work that goes into training for a single marathon--four to five months of structured training offered by Team in Training. Armstrong calls it "taking people from the couch to the finish line."

I'm sure Armstrong has inspired others to commit to their own marathon and fundraising goals for Team in Training--creating a true "pay it forward" effect, benefiting the LLS and blood cancer patients through increased awareness and funding. I'm even starting to feel the bug, from both my cousin and now Armstrong.

"You know," Armstrong says, "every day, the people I see inspire me to keep going with my running, so I guess it works both ways."

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