Running for a cause
Runner Mike McGuire with wife Sara, and daughters Teagan (8) and Kyla (4) after a recent race.

Photo provided.

Running for a cause

Story By: LIZ FINNEGAN
9/3/2015


SUFFOLK COUNTY—When West Islip resident Mike McGuire hits the pavement at the start of the inaugural Suffolk County Marathon in Heckscher State Park, he won’t be running alone, both figuratively and literally. After all, there are more than 2,400 registered participants in that event. However, McGuire, who will run the half marathon, will also be accompanied by the memory of his dad, whose illness was the impetus to begin running for better health. 

Vincent McGuire, a businessman in the garment industry in Manhattan, was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer in April 2011 and passed away a short time later.

“I started running when my dad was diagnosed,” said McGuire. “That’s how I dealt with it. I’d put on my ear buds, tune out the world, and think. I thought of my dad and at times, it was emotional,” he said.

McGuire, a Lindenhurst High School science teacher, said he hadn’t ever run before that time, even though his wife had been a runner. “When I started, I could barely do a mile. I was 36 years old and out of breath,” he said. However, he kept up the momentum, and since 2011 has run on a regular basis. In the process, he lost 30 lbs. “It’s incredible,” he remarked.

Over the last three years he has run 5Ks, and this year he started running both 10Ks and six-mile race events. He’s been coming in faster, and noted with pride that he’s even managed to shave off 40 minutes from his practices.

Although the Suffolk County race is much anticipated, he said the April races he and his family have organized in memory of his father for the past few years are also exciting.

“[The race] is a yearly tradition that’s held around my dad’s birthday. Because he worked in the city, we’ve had it in Central Park,” McGuire said. This year, about 30 family members and friends attended and raised $300 for the Lustgarten Foundation. He hopes to do it again next year, but perhaps move it a little closer to home.

“Dad was the crown jewel of the family. He was funny and outgoing. I used to talk to him twice a day and I still feel that loss.

“I watched him suffer for two and a half months, but he never complained about the pain.”

McGuire said when his father was hospitalized, he brought him a disc filled with all of his favorite songs to listen to and distract him from the situation. He now uses that disc on his runs. 

“I go into a zone,” he said. “It’s almost an out-of-body experience.”

On Sept. 13, the father of two will be sporting a few other reminders of his beloved dad—purple ribbons painted on his arms and legs to draw awareness to the fight to find a cure for pancreatic cancer.

“I’m so looking forward to this marathon,” said McGuire. “It’s pretty cool to be a part of the first one, too.

“And next year, I’m going all the way and running the full marathon. It might take me four hours to complete, but I’ll do it. It’s not about winning, it’s about finishing.”