Memory of friends lost to colon cancer inspires first-time marathoner

    Logan Square resident Craig Schwartz doesn’t like to run. Yet he’s signed up for the Philadelphia Marathon on Sunday.

    “Some runners say they get this natural high. I’m still looking for that high,” he said with a laugh Wednesday in Lloyd Hall before a last training run along Kelly Drive. Schwartz, 41, like many others, runs to stay fit. He says the time he spends running is a big stress reliever, time when he isn’t thinking about his responsibilities at home or at work.

    As he’s been putting in the long hours over six months for this weekend’s marathon, he has been thinking of two Jims he knew who both died of colon cancer. The effect that the loss of these men had on their families and on himself inspired Schwartz to use his run to raise funds and awareness for an illness that affects one in 19.

    “I’m just fighting for 26.2 miles. That’s nothing compared to what some of these people have to go through,” said Schwartz, who has raised more than $5,000 for the Colon Cancer Alliance through a website he created.

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    Schwartz, a first-time marathon runner, is nervous about the big day because he strained his knee in the past month.

    “If it wasn’t for all the people supporting me, I might back off and just do another marathon,” he said. He says that, although some might find it sappy or cliche, that the Jims are his motivation.

    Andrew Spiegel, CEO of the Colon Cancer Alliance, says that many participate in their Undy 5000 walk that takes place in more than 20 cities around the country. There are some who even run a 5K race or climb a mountain but Schwartz is their first marathon runner.

    When Schwartz first contacted the CCA, Spiegel thought, “Boy, what a great thing he’s doing, considering he doesn’t like running and he’s never run a marathon.”

    Any funds donated to the alliance go to patients in need, advocacy in Washington, scientific research and raising awareness. Spiegel says raising awareness is key when it comes to colon cancer. With regular screenings, colon cancer can be prevented or cured. Still, colon cancers deaths are second only to smoking-related lung cancer.

    “A lot of people stick their head in the sand, maybe they’re embarrassed,” Schwartz said.

    He hopes he can inspire people to get screening encourage their loved ones to do the same. He says he’s amazed at what he, as an individual, is able to contribute.

    More than 50 people, many strangers, have donated to the cause through his site. He hopes to continue the effort in his friends’ memories. In 10 years, he aims to have a hundred runners and raise more than $100,000.

    “He’s not the kind of guy who runs in a race and forgets about it,” said Spiegel. “He takes on a cause and truly runs with it.”

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