WDAY: The News Leader

Published May 10, 2014, 10:03 AM

73-year-old has goal to run 100 marathons

FARGO — It didn’t start out as the No. 1 goal, but somewhere after running a marathon in his 30th state, Don Wright got to thinking: Why not join the 50-state club?

By: Jeff Kolpack, The Jamestown Sun, WDAY

FARGO — It didn’t start out as the No. 1 goal, but somewhere after running a marathon in his 30th state, Don Wright got to thinking: Why not join the 50-state club?

Sure enough, just over a year ago, he ran the Honolulu Marathon in Hawaii to complete the quest. It’s a select club that has gained popularity in recent years.

It’s not the only club the 73-year-old Wright has joined. He’s a cancer survivor and is running his second Fargo Marathon this morning carrying the flag for the International Myeloma Foundation.

He was diagnosed with multiple myeloma not long after completing his first marathon.

“At the time, we probably thought we had five years,” Wright said. “That was 11 years ago.”

The “we” in the equation includes his wife, Ardis, and daughter, Sarah, who have been along for the ride in all 50 states. Today will be his 82nd career marathon with a new goal of reaching 100.

And when he reaches 100, he figures the next goal will be 101.

“What inspires me is when people say they’re inspired by me,” he said. “One woman wrote me a note after she finished the Paris Marathon and said when she was really struggling, ‘That’s when I thought of you.’ I think she meant that in a good way.”

Wright ran the Nashville Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon just two weeks ago. He’s able to bounce back so quickly, he said, because of constant exercise, plenty of sleep and a healthy diet.

It’s a big reason why his cancer battle has been successful, he said. He’s part of a new method of treating the ailment, one that only requires a small pill every night. There are no side effects and he really doesn’t notice anything different.

“The reason I can do this is because I’ve been rescued by a new drug,” Wright said. “It’s a leading wave of new drugs. It’s not your father’s chemo.”

Ardis and Sarah have done several half-marathons in the journey. They live in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, a suburb northeast of St. Paul, so traveling to Fargo isn’t the long distance of other races. He’s run Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, nine times and the Twin Cities Marathon six times.

Don likes the flat course in Fargo — especially as opposed to the hilly Nashville course of two weeks ago. He’s shooting for 5 hours, 30 minutes but said it could get closer to six hours. The nice thing about Fargo, he said, is they close the course after seven hours, which is longer than several other marathons.

His personal record is 3:36, although that came when he was in his 60s. Moreover, running isn’t about getting the best time anymore.

He runs under the “E-Race Cancer” banner, a social media campaign that has been raising awareness of multiple myeloma on behalf of a variety of charities over the years. He’s also running on behalf of the Black Swan Research Initiative, a project of the International Myeloma Foundation to advance the treatment and find a cure.

“They actually have a plan to find a cure, not just hopeful, but they have a way they’re going to do it,” Don said. “I think it’s pretty likely by the time I’m not able to run anymore that they will have a cure.”