Thursday, May 21, 2015

Running for a cause: Reid team member honors his father in marathons

Justin Daniels has always been athletic, but he’d never run a marathon—until his father, Leonard, was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in 2010. Now, Justin has set his sights on running a marathon in each of the 50 states to honor his dad and others who suffer from this progressive disease.

COPD is a lung disease that blocks airflow, making it difficult to breathe. The main cause of COPD is smoking, although pollution can play a role. It is the third leading cause of death in the United States.

Justin’s journey began in 2011, when he entered the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon to honor his dad. After a strong finish (69th in his age group), he began to think about how he could do more to raise awareness about COPD. He began to follow a rigorous training schedule, with the goal of running a marathon in each of the 50 states.

So far, he has run marathons in Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, California and Oregon. Justin is ramping up his race schedule in 2015, and hopes to complete his quest by the end of 2016. His mom, Kathy, accompanies him to races; they set up a booth at each race site, distributing educational materials provided by the COPD Foundation. “I’ve talked to a lot of people at races, and listened to their stories about dealing with COPD or watching someone they love cope with it,” says Justin, 33. “I encourage people to see their doctor if they have symptoms, and if they are smokers I urge them to get the support they need to quit.”

Justin, who works at Reid Hospital as a nursing care technician, will use all of his vacation days this year to run marathons. A number of organizations — including the Indiana Pacers and the COPD Foundation — have donated money and products to help him reach his goal. Justin keeps supporters informed through his Facebook page, where he also sells T-shirts to support the cause.

Meanwhile, Justin’s dad continues to battle the disease and stays as active as he can. He is hoping to see Justin run a marathon sometime soon.

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