A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
April 14, 2005 Volume 35 / Number 7


Cancer Cure Key To Marathoner's Motivation

What makes an otherwise normal person want to run 26.2 miles through a crowd of thousands of people? “The reward of being a champion in one’s own right while supporting just causes like cancer research for kids is a shot of adrenalin to the bloodstream,” says John Blenkush, a maintenance mechanic and locksmith in University Housing and Food Services since 2001. He will run his seventh marathon on April 18 when he competes in the Boston Marathon. Blenkush is participating as part of Fred’s Team, a national organization that raises funds for cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Blenkush, originally from Minnesota, started running marathons three years ago, when a long-time buddy invited him to run the New York City Marathon. “Initially, I did it for the challenge, and it was fun doing something with an old friend,” he says, “but now I run because I can, because I’ve been blessed with good health, and because I’ve seen too many people impacted by cancer and other diseases, I realize how fleeting good heath can be.”

Runners in the Boston Marathon are required to meet a qualifying time for their age bracket, which for Blenkush, 52, means a time under 3 hours, 35 minutes. Blenkush’s personal best is 3:29:26, but he’s not going to Boston to break any records. “There will be 20,000 runners. I’m going to have fun, to enjoy the experience,” he says. He admits that running marathons is exhausting emotionally, not just physically, with many runners in tears at the finish line, him included. Still, Blenkush says, “It’s all put into perspective when I consider what people with cancer face every day.”

Blenkush recently completed his 18-week training program, which builds from running 20 miles a week to 40 miles, then tapers off. He trains at the CSU, Chico track, and, for long runs, he runs from Chico to Cohasset and back and on the bike trail in the hills of Placerville. “I ran a marathon in Napa in March, and that gave me a check of where I am, ” he says.

If you or your office would like to make a donation to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center through Fred’s Team, go to www.befittingchoices.com and include Blenkush’s runner identification number, 999034581, and race code, E05MPDBO.

–Lisa Kirk