By Peter Czanyo
If you asked me if I would be running a marathon at the age of 60 (let alone any age) I would laugh, thinking you might have been directing the question to someone else.
As I write this, I am in the “tapering” phase (or slowly reducing mileage) of training, a word, up until this point, completely unfamiliar to me in the context of sports. I am traveling from my hometown of Buenos Aires, Argentina to Chicago, Illinois for the Chicago Marathon this Sunday, October 9th. What motivated me to run it, you ask?
In 2003, at the age of 47 I found myself in a position I could have never anticipated. I was at the doctors for a routine check-up and since I had a history of smoking they decided to do a chest x-ray. I went into the doctor that morning feeling so full of life – my family was happy and healthy, including my two daughters Sophia, age 8, and Carolina, age 14 – and left with lung cancer.
I have always loved being active and spending time outdoors in nature. After my diagnosis I started climbing mountains. That was my dream! The dream has to be bigger than the fear – in my case, the fear of cancer. I had the incredible experience of climbing Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside of Asia reaching over 6,000 meters, and that was the turning point where I knew I could change my life.
I ran daily to train for the climb. My goal of running a marathon was born then! I wanted to do something visible to help those battling lung cancer, those who may not have a voice; something that would get people talking about the disease. When I run this weekend I am wearing a shirt that says “Lung Cancer Patient: Running for My Life.” I am running for my life and the lives of all lung cancer patients.
One thing that I have realized throughout this process if there is so much we, as humans, are capable of, but we hold ourselves back because of fear. Fear is our greatest enemy; fear of the disease and fear that we are not strong enough to beat it. We are all susceptible to illness – no one is an exception – but when we are presented with this obstacle in life it is a reminder to listen to our bodies, treat them with care, make appropriate changes and follow your dreams.
Just like running a marathon, it may seem impossible, but with hard work and determination any one can do it. I am proof that if you can overcome fear, you can do anything.