Doctors told Don Wright he had five years to live when he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2003.
Instead of resigning himself to this fate, Wright began running marathons. Last November, at age 75, he reached his goal of running 100 marathons with cancer.
Now he’s trying to qualify for track and field events at the National Senior Games in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 2019.
He also ran in Philadelphia’s Miles for Myeloma 5K on April 22, in preparation for his 101st marathon this month. And he took part in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter sprints at the USA Track & Field Masters Outdoor Championships on June 11 in St. Paul, Minnesota.
He said he had “never competed in an outdoor track and field meet before, and I loved it,” Wright said in a press release. “I finished last in all three of my races, but that sets a baseline for me to build on and improve.”
Wright announced his Senior Games quest on the website he started to raise awareness of the need for advances in cancer treatment. The site is called eRace Cancer.
Wright has shown multiple myeloma patients that a diagnosis isn’t necessarily a death sentence.
“When we completed at least one marathon in all 50 states in 2012, we helped create eRace Cancer to let other patients know that cancer treatments aren’t always your grandfather’s chemotherapy,” he said. “As I said at the time, ‘Here I am with cancer and my biggest complaint is runner’s knee. As a kid I was one of the fastest on my block and even in my 60s I was fast. I’d like to return to my running roots with a race measured in minutes and seconds instead of hours.”
Wright credits his ability to race to a clinical trial he entered for a new oral drug to treat his cancer. If he had not entered the trial, his myeloma would’ve probably continued tethering him to IV pole, he said.
Recently he had to add a second medication to his regimen. Neither of the treatments was available in 2003, when he was diagnosed.
That’s why his message includes a call for people to support medical research and innovation, including new clinical trials, that could lead to new treatments.
Because of his cancer, a trainer works with Wright at all his runs. He also has to pace his training, stretching his programs out so they’re not too hard.
Running or exercising is good if adapted to a person’s needs and capacity. So Wright advises anyone with a chronic disease who is starting an exercise program to talk with a doctor first.