Runner’s Spotlight | Virginia Man Runs in Honor of Girlfriend’s Cancer Battle
Ever wonder who’s standing next to you in your corral at the start line, or cheering you on when you’re about to give up during a race? As runners we all have a story, a motivation to run whether it’s a personal challenge, to stay fit, bond with friends, raise money for charity, or work through a difficult time.
Andrew Scharf had started running again. He was in good shape, and glad to get back to a daily physical challenge.
“I could never run long distances,” Scharf said, “so when I started running again, I ran to stay healthy, to clear my head, and I gave myself a goal.”
About the same time, nearly two years ago, Scharf met his girlfriend Jessica Finster, a slim brunette who shared his love of the outdoors. It is the intersection of those two events that brings him to the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon on March 15th, his first 26.2-mile race.
Scharf had been running with the Potomac River Running DTP, a running community that focuses on endurance events; athletes who take pride in their pace. Scharf appreciated the challenge that inspires these runners, but he wanted to look beyond his own sense of accomplishment and give his running more meaning.
“It was about that time that Jessica told me something about her childhood that few people knew. At age three, she had been diagnosed with leukemia and spent many, many days in the hospital enduring chemotherapy. She lost her hair and was in a lot of pain for a long time, but by the time she was eight, she went into remission. She’s been cancer-free for almost 20 years now,” he said.
Scharf did two things to honor her struggle and to help today’s patients. He signed up for the national registry of bone marrow donors (bethematch.org), which is often tapped by leukemia patients, and he joined The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training and began to raise funds for the type of research that saved her life. Team In Training runners raise millions each year for LLS research and patient services programs. With that team, he now trains for his first marathon.
Jessica’s story helped him meet his $1,900 fundraising goal within days. And to have her in his heart and on his mind as he ran longer and longer distances in training – well, that gave him the inspiration he needed. “When I don’t think I can run any farther, I think about what she went through as a child, and it makes me feel more dedicated to the cause, more energized to be a part of Team In Training, and honored to be able to help the next generation of leukemia patients.”
“She thinks I’m a little crazy to put my body through this,” Scharf said. “And I joke with her that running is my mistress. But she’s extremely supportive. I don’t know where I’d be without her,” he said.
And just as runners eventually must reach the finish line, so it is in love. As Andrew prepares for his first marathon this month, he and Jessica have just moved into their first home together.
This story is just one of many that brings motivation and support to members of the Rock ‘n’ Roll community. Share your personal story and you could be featured in our Runner Spotlight.