TWELVE marathons in 12 months: a lofty target, though Kevin Steinberg is one away from completing his goal.
The West Vancouver resident embarked on the year-long challenge, entitled Run More Than A Marathon, as a means of raising funds and awareness for the Canadian Cancer Society, B.C. and Yukon branch, as well as to promote the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
Steinberg launched the initiative following the death of his good friend Sheldon Bainwohl, a Toronto, Ont., husband and father to three daughters, who succumbed to cancer in May 2011 at age 47.
"I just felt I needed to do something," says Steinberg, 49. An avid marathoner since 1983 - he's run five Boston Marathons and is active in Ironman and triathlon events - Steinberg recalled a conversation he'd had with Sheldon, who was ill at the time, in the lead-up to a race.
"He called me and he said to me, 'You know, what you're doing is amazing. It's so incredible that you can conquer this pain,' and I said, 'Sheldon, what I'm doing has got nothing, is like not even on the same scale, that you're on, in terms of what you're going through,'" he says.
Sheldon also expressed an interest in one day running a marathon himself, though unfortunately never got the opportunity.
The seeds were planted and a month following Sheldon's passing, Steinberg launched the initiative and ran his first event, the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, in June 2011. He's since completed the San Francisco, Edmonton, Bellingham Bay, Poulsbo, Honolulu, Red Rock Canyon, Dizzy Daze, Boston, BMO Vancouver and Abbotsford marathons.
It hasn't been easy. In October 2011, Steinberg incurred a knee injury, funnily enough, not through his intense marathon schedule or training regime, rather on the soccer field while coaching his daughter's team. He had to adjust his marathon schedule slightly, and was forced to walk the Honolulu marathon in December 2011. However, he's made it through as a runner in the other 10 and next weekend is set to take on the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Marathon yet again, on June 23, checking off marathon No. 12 on his to-do list.
Steinberg dedicated each marathon to someone who passed away due to cancer, is a cancer survivor or who is currently battling the disease, honouring each with a write-up on the Run More Than A Marathon website.
For example, his first event, and tenth, BMO Vancouver, were dedicated to Sheldon; his third, Edmonton, to his late father-in-law; his sixth, Honolulu to his late uncle; and his ninth, Boston, to survivors.
Prior to his injury, the May BMO Vancouver Marathon was to be his 12th event and he issued a call for 12 people to join him.
"I was amazed, within a week, the response that I got from people that were prepared to join me," he says.
Half of those who signed on had never even run a marathon before, including Sheldon's wife, Sabrina, who decided to participate.
"One's first marathon is very special and it was very special for me to be part of (the experience with) those that had accomplished their first marathon," says Steinberg.
For Steinberg's final event, he's decided to dedicate each of the 26 miles of the Seattle marathon course to someone currently fighting cancer, a means of sending positive energy their way, and encourages community members to make suggestions of who he should run for.
Throughout the 11 marathons he's run, Steinberg took things fairly easy to pace himself and his goal has been to complete them in the 3: 50-4: 05 range. His best time was 3: 40 in the first event.
The initiative has proven challenging more than just in the physical sense.
"I've always done these things on the quiet, I've never put myself out there," says Steinberg.
However, looking back, it's been well worth the effort.
"It's been a journey of such reward and it's provided so much meaning to my life over the last year. I've always done exercise, it's always been an integral part of my life, but I've never had as much meaning placed as part of it," he says.
"I don't know if I could just go out and run 12 marathons. Having the cause to do this and having the people's support in it and then raising the funds for cancer and making people more aware of it, is really what's kept me going," he adds.
Steinberg is $500 away from his fundraising goal of $5,000.
To make a donation, to find out more or to suggest someone for Steinberg to dedicate a mile to in next weekend's Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, visit runmorethanamarathon.com.