Stage Four Cancer Can’t Keep This Runner from Pacing Marathons

Between treatments for prostate cancer, Tom Perri led the 5:30 pace group at the 2020 Little Rock Marathon.

27.3.2020

Between treatments for prostate cancer, Tom Perri led the 5:30 pace group at the 2020 Little Rock Marathon.

Between treatments for prostate cancer, Tom Perri led the 5:30 pace group at the 2020 Little Rock Marathon.

By Mar 5, 2020 Benjamin Krain / Little Rock Marathon Tom Perri knew something was wrong when his pace started slowing. In the spring of 2018, he was coming up on mile 19 during a in Wisconsin when he suddenly felt heavy and fatigued. He was aiming for a 4:30 finish time—a perfectly comfortable pace for the 3:55 marathoner—but his legs wouldn’t turn over. “I had never felt that before,” Perri, 58, told Runner’s World . As was typical for the frequent racer, the Maple Grove, Minnesota native ran several more 26.2s that year, but each race got slower. “I figured it was Lyme disease or something.” But after Perri had bloodwork done during a physical in late December of 2018, his doctor called for a biopsy on his prostate. Then Perri received shocking news: he had prostate cancer , which originates in the prostate gland and often spreads quickly throughout the body. “I was really surprised, because other than my fatigue, I didn’t have any symptoms,” he said. “I was healthy.” At the time, Perri had never gone more than four days without running since 1975. In his lifetime, he has logged more than 100,000 miles, raced in more than 2,000 races , finished a sub-4:00 marathon in all 50 states, and paced over 1,000 events, he said. When he first received his diagnosis, Perri’s first concern was how the disease would affect his running. Luckily, his physician assistant, who races Ironman triathlons , understood how important Perri’s daily miles were to him. Perri was told that he was allowed to walk-run as long as he was careful not to overexert himself. Perri took the advice to heart and kept pounding the pavement. Since his diagnosis, he has completed 40 marathons, the latest of which was the . On Sunday, March 1, he paced the 5:30 group all the way to the finish line in Arkansas. Always Running Tom Perri leads the 5:30 marathon pace group to the finish line of the 2020 Little Rock Marathon. Benjamin Krain / Little Rock Marathon Perri’s first introduction to racing was during middle school in his Minnesota hometown, when he would line up for mile races during P.E. class. In high school, he joined the high school cross-country and track teams, but never took the racing part of the sport too seriously. “For me, it was more of a social thing,” he said. “I liked talking to other people during runs and being around everyone on race day. Running gave me my social network.” Perri continued running recreationally through college at St. Thomas College, where he studied English and psychology, and at graduate school at St Mary’s University, where he received master’s degrees in suicidology and human development. During this time, he also began volunteering as a pacer in 5Ks and 10Ks. “Pacing was my way of connecting with people,” he said. Related Story Read more: Runner's World

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