DONNA Marathon Weekend always delivers stories: stories of sacrifice, overcoming obstacles, and of triumph. Our own Donna Deegan shares one of her personal favorites from the 11th Annual DONNA Marathon Weekend.
He was running all alone in first place. This guy who no-one had ever seen before. It was the Saturday before the 2018 DONNA Marathon and Mikey Neville was running the DONNA 10K like a man possessed. After he broke the tape at the finish line minutes before the next guy, I followed him with my eyes. I wanted to wait until he’d cleared the crowd and go over to say congratulations. I watched as he weaved his way through the throngs of pink spectators. He was looking for someone. Finally, I saw him disappear in to the the sea of people and pop back up with a tiny bald headed girl. I immediately began to cry. Turns out Mikey and his family were here from the UK to receive proton therapy for their daughter Snowdrop (named after the flower). Snowy, as they call her, had a rare type of brain cancer and the therapy was her best shot at a full recovery.
The day Snowy was diagnosed, Mikey, feeling helpless, had gone out for a run and decided to bike and swim as well. Moving, he decided, was the best way to clear his head and boy did it need clearing. From that day on, Mikey has done a triathlon every single day of his daughter’s journey. When he saw the pink banners in downtown Jacksonville, he decided to make our 10K part of that day’s triathlon.
“You’re fast,” I said.
“Well, I get so excited about seeing my girls, I tend to speed up at the end,” was his answer.
The following day, Mikey’s wife Polly ran our half marathon and marveled at the support on the course. When last we spoke, Mikey was on triathlon 148 and counting. Since then, Snowy has finished her treatment. The family is back in the UK and involved in their own efforts to get people moving and raise money and awareness for cancer charities there.
Cancer is cancer folks. I love to connect with people like Mikey and his family because we are all in that club that no one wishes to join, but that brings us oh so much closer to our humanity. This is why we do what we do.