Multiple Myeloma Marathon Runner Don Wright, 76, Races Again in Philadelphia

Inês Martins, PhD avatar

by Inês Martins, PhD |

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Don Wright, the 76-year-old marathon runner who recently reached his goal of running 100 marathons after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma, ran Philadelphia’s Miles for Myeloma 5K on April 22, in preparation for his 101st marathon in June.

Patient Power, a nonprofit advocacy group, reported that Wright hopes to serve as an example of how treatment has progressed so far, and to raise awareness of the possibilities that still exist to improve the lives of cancer patients.

Doctors diagnosed the Minnesota resident with multiple myeloma  in 2003 and told him he had five years to live. Instead of resigning himself to this fate, Wright took matters into his own hands and began running marathons. Last November, at age 75, he reached his goal of running 100 marathons with cancer at a racing event in Philadelphia. Last week, he returned to Philadelphia to show that a diagnosis isn’t necessarily a death sentence.

“The outlook for many of us gets better every year as more advanced treatments become available,” Phil Falkowitz, a Philadelphian myeloma patient who was diagnosed 20 years ago, said in a press release. “Not everyone does as well as we do, but Don’s dramatic achievements help us encourage continued medical progress, so more and more of our fellow patients can share in the extended good health and improved longevity that is changing the course of this disease.”

Added Andrew Schoor, Patient Power’s co-founder and president: “I recently attended a meeting of the President’s Cancer Panel, where the chairperson said that we don’t want to discourage medical progress, but to encourage the development of valuable medicines and delivery systems. Don’s running certainly reinforces those words, which is why we are pleased to support his running, and proud that he supports us in return.”

The Miles for Myeloma 5K is expected to draw at least 1,000 participants, running and walking through some of the most picturesque sceneries in Philadelphia.

“I’m thrilled to be returning to the scene of my personal triumph, 100 marathons with cancer, and humbled to be running alongside so many fellow patients and their supporters this time around,” Wright said. “I love the city, the parks and the people, and I’m glad to be running to raise awareness of new treatments for rare cancers.”

Wright will now stop running marathons for a few months to focus on 5K and 10K runs to build muscle and endurance, all to maintain a healthy balance. The shorter races also mean more people can join in without the rigorous training that marathons require.

However, Wright’s sports medicine specialist advises his patient to take it slow, and to stretch what normally would be a one-month training program over three months. Wright is still an elderly cancer patient, he said, adding that anyone starting a new exercise program should check with a physician first.