Running the New York City Marathon to Support CF Patients

A family member tests her endurance to support the Boomer Esiason Foundation

William Ryan avatar

by William Ryan |

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When I was a kid, my goal was to play second base for my favorite baseball team, the New York Yankees. When I realized that I couldn’t hit a baseball, arguably the hardest thing to do in any sport, I stopped playing. I also stopped playing basketball about the same time, because I was — and still am — a very slow runner.

When you run a marathon, it’s not really about how fast you go, but rather keeping a pace so that you don’t run out of energy. You want to maintain steady breathing for the entire 26.2 miles. Of course, I personally couldn’t tell you if that’s true or not, but as an avid sports fan, that’s what long distance running appears to be to me.

Family bonds

I remember meeting my cousin Kelly for the first time shortly after she was born. It meant that I was no longer the youngest cousin on my father’s side of the family, and I got to be a de facto big brother. My father is the youngest of his siblings, the sixth child in a large, close-knit, Irish Catholic family. When his child (me) was born with cystic fibrosis (CF), it brought our family closer. Kelly’s mom (my dad’s sister), Aunt Fran, used to babysit me and taught me how to take my first steps. I can’t emphasize enough how close our family is.

I was cool with the fact that I was no longer the youngest cousin. I remember giving Kelly a kiss on her forehead and pushing her in a little swing. Over the years, our families would take vacations together every summer. We’d spend Good Fridays together going around North Jersey, wherever Aunt Fran would take us, and we almost always sat next to each other at family events. Kelly and I are four and a half years apart, just like my dad and my Aunt Joanie were. They were incredibly close until she passed away in 2011.

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As we got older, it became apparent that Kelly was more athletic than I was, in addition to having the brains of the family. (I will gladly accept the role as the funnier one, because I have to have something!) It’s been an honor watching her grow up and become the woman she is today. When my wife, Gina, and I were married last year, we asked Kelly to read a poem at our wedding because of how close the three of us are.

Giving back

Last spring, I got a call from my mom, who was rather excited to share some family news. Generally speaking, most family news isn’t too exciting to me, but she told me that Kelly would run in the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6.

My first thoughts were that I couldn’t be prouder of her tackling something new in her life. She’s an excellent swimmer and not really a runner, let alone a long-distance runner. Then I was told she was running to support the Boomer Esiason Foundation. If you don’t know, this is a foundation that supports cystic fibrosis patients and was named after the former NFL star whose son, Gunnar, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis back in the 1990s.

Over the last six months, friends and family have rallied around Kelly with words of encouragement and help to meet her goal of raising $4,000, just like we used to do every year for the CF advocacy group Great Strides. Over the last six months, I looked forward to being there to support her, and yet I was unable to go.

Due to my hospital stay last week, I have a PICC line in my left arm and I’m hooked up to antibiotics. Since returning home from the hospital, it’s been hard for me to move as quickly and fluidly as I normally do. Ultimately, I made the decision not to go, because I didn’t want to distract from the attention she so truly deserved, and because it’s hard for me to move around.

With that being said, I may not have been physically able to be there, but I was running alongside her in spirit. Lord knows, I’d gas myself out after a quarter of a mile if I had really done it.

Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.


Helen Palmiero avatar

Helen Palmiero

Will, don't short change yourself on not being the brains of the family. Whether you are or not, your articles never fail to teach me something new about CF. They are so well written and all contain your wonderful sense of humor. I'm very proud of you, dear son-in-law! Love, Mom Helen


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