Why We Run: honoring a grandfather, finding a family

(NEWS CENTER) -- It didn't take long for cancer to take over her grandfather's body. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October 2009, and passed away three months later. Cary Gemmer couldn't ignore a nagging feeling she had after he died to find a way to honor him. She came across the Dana Farber Marathon team.

"It was my 25th year of being myself, so in celebration of 25 years, and my grandfather, and the fact that I always wanted to run a marathon," said Gemmer.

In 2011, Gemmer ran her first Boston Marathon. She felt strong for the entire 26.2 mile course, full of energy from the crowd and fellow Dana Farber runners.

"The fans along the way, even in Ashland and Hopkinton, are out there and cheering for you, 'go Dana-Farberrr! Go Cary!'...everybody has their name on their singlets...It really provides you with lots of energy to get you up Heartbreak Hill to get you through Newton and into Boston," she said.

After her first, she decided she didn't want to stop there. Gemmer said she found a family-like environment within Dana Farber that motivated her to keep running. So she ran again in 2012. The 89 degree heat sent more than 100 runners to the hospital, but Gemmer preserved through and finished.

None of the wonderful spirit and excitement of the previous two marathons was there in 2013.

"Little did we know that it was going to be the worst Marathon Monday that we've experienced. It was just horrific, and the fact that we weren't able to connect with one another and be together following the race made it all more difficult," said Gemmer.

Even with the memories of the 2013 marathon, Gemmer doesn't plan on giving up on her grandfather or Dana Farber.

"Before last year even happened, I say to people, I'll run for Dana-Farber as long as I can, as long as I have two legs that work and move me throughout the course and across the finish line, I'll do this," she said.

Gemmer said she feels a little more whole and has found her purpose through running with Dana Farber. It's the people she's met and the spirit they have that make her feel like she's part of a family.


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