Running for charity keeps fund-raising on course

Walzer makes run for leukemia society

October 17, 2001|By Paul McMullen | By Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore Marathon Festival will be another run for the money for Cliff Walzer.

He's about three decades past his athletic prime, so cash prizes aren't what send Walzer out the door at 5 a.m. to work out. He is among the hundreds of men and women who will run the Comcast Baltimore Marathon for a charity. Walzer's cause is personal, because he's a cancer survivor.

A 49-year-old oral surgeon from Annapolis, Walzer is among the 125 members of the Baltimore chapter of Team in Training who will tour the city in running shoes Saturday. Team in Training is a national network that uses road races to raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Walzer learned of the group two years ago, while recuperating from treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Even before he was found to have one of the cancers that originate in the lymphatic system, the winter of 1998-99 was a struggle for Walzer. He and his wife, Helen, coped with the death of her father, and then Walzer found an ominous mass on his neck. The diagnosis was confirmed over the course of several months, and Walzer was further weakened by chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

"I worked through my treatments," Walzer said. "They were completed in June 1999, and that summer I was totally out of shape. The cancer and the treatment wreaked havoc on my body. With all of the medicine you take, you gain weight and can't exercise.

"I got a flier from Team in Training that October. Their literature said they raised funds for kids and the kind of cancer I had. That sounded good to me."

Walzer was rejuvenated by his running regimen, which consists of solitary 5 a.m. jogs four times a week and a longer run along the Baltimore & Annapolis Trail on Saturdays. The fact that he was never a couch potato speeded his recovery. Walzer was a pretty good soccer player growing up on Long Island, N.Y., and made his mark as a goal scorer at SUNY-Albany. After college, he turned to recreational running.

Walzer doesn't churn out nine-minute miles in the fashion he did in the days when he finished the Annapolis 10-Miler in 90 minutes, but pace isn't the only point with Team in Training.

Besides its Baltimore-based contingent, Team in Training will bring another 100 runners from seven other chapters to town Saturday. Each June, Team in Training takes over the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in San Diego. That's where Walzer made his marathon debut in 2000, in a field of more than 15,000. He returned to San Diego four months ago, and chopped eight minutes off his time, dipping to 4 hours, 43 minutes, 6 seconds.

"Twenty-five percent of the field in San Diego is affiliated with Team in Training," Walzer said. "It seems like everyone was wearing purple [the Team in Training colors] there."

Team in Training members entered here pledged to raise $1,400 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Walzer has taken his commitments seriously, as Baltimore will push him past $50,000 raised in just three marathons.

"I've received a tremendous amount of support in the community," Walzer said. "I'm touched by the support I've received."

Walzer file

Age: 49

Home: Annapolis

Marathon debut: 2000 Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in San Diego

Personal best: 2001 Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, 4:43:06

Baltimore goal: "My goal is always under five hours. I'd love to finish without the aches and pains I've experienced in the past."

Marathon facts

What: Baltimore Marathon Festival

When: Saturday. Marathon and marathon team relay start at 8:30 a.m. A 5K (3.1-mile) race starts at 9 a.m.

Where: Start and finish outside PSINet Stadium. The 26.2-mile course takes a counterclockwise route through Baltimore.

Marathon entrants: More than 6,300

Information: 410-377-8006 or 800-487-0670, or visit thebaltimoremarathon.com on the Web

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