Two runners are miles apart, but fundraising together for cancer research

Leyah Valgardson is training for the Boston Marathon in Pittsburgh, while colleague Kevin Brozyna does the same in Saudi Arabia.


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Proving that all distances are relative, two employees of the Pittsburgh-based housing firm IBACOS are training in different parts of the world before heading to Boston to run in the marathon April 15. They will be raising money for cancer research. It's a cause very close to their hearts.

Leyah Valgardson, manager of builder relations for the firm, which is headquartered in the Strip District, is training for the race here. Kevin Brozyna, program manager of technology and innovation, is training in Saudi Arabia.

The pair hope to raise $20,000 for cancer research, to be split between the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, a world leader in the treatment of pediatric cancers, and the Colin Moran Memorial. Mr. Moran, who died of a brain tumor last year at age 27, is the son of Mike Moran, a colleague and friend of Ms. Valgardson and Mr. Brozyna at IBACOS.

"We've been personally affected by cancer," Ms. Valgardson said. "It keeps us inspired, keeps us training hard."

She never met him, "but every day I train and run, I think of Colin Moran," Ms. Valgardson said.

Boston will be the sixth marathon for Ms. Valgardson, 32, which is quite a few for someone who describes herself as "not a runner."

"At about [age] 18 I started running a block, then two," she said. "It built up from there."

Ms. Valgardson maintains a blog, www.performwellnow.com, to which Mr. Brozyna contributes, in which she describes her preparation for the Boston Marathon, and her feelings.

"I like to have a plan in place before I start any new venture," she said. "Without it, I feel lost, confused." So she mapped out what she'll do each day for 18 weeks of training, even what she'll eat.

"You could say I'm a little OCD about planning and organization," Ms. Valgardson said. "I even go so far as to lay my clothes out for my next run the night before so I can ensure I don't forget anything."

The weather sometimes has played havoc with Ms. Valgardson's meticulously made plans. On a visit to her family in Utah recently, she planned to run 20 miles. But on the day she planned to make that run, there were 8 inches of new snow on the ground, and it kept snowing hard all day.

"The snow was so heavy, I could barely see," she said. She struggled for 14 miles, then had to give up.

Cold and snow have not been problems for Mr. Brozyna, 30, a seasoned marathoner who ran track in high school. He does most of his training between 10 p.m. and midnight on a treadmill in his hotel in Riyadh, both because his busy work and travel schedule gives him little opportunity to work out during the day, and because it's often too hot to run outside in Saudi Arabia.

"Since there is no vegetation in the desert, you get sustained winds across the land and no shade at all," he said. "You begin to lose water very quickly without realizing it since your sweat evaporates nearly instantly."

Mr. Brozyna experienced the consequences of dehydration on an early training run in the desert. He was about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from where his driver was going to meet him when "my calves began to seize up." He "toughed it out" for about 2 more kilometers, but then could run no farther. He had to hitch a ride with a camel farmer to get back to where his driver was waiting.

Ms. Valgardson and Mr. Brozyna have raised about $5,000 so far toward their goal of $20,000, mostly from their employer, colleagues at work, and friends. The first $8,000 they raise will go to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Anything more than that will go to the Colin Moran Memorial fund, which benefits the Allen Community Outreach in Allen, Texas. To help sponsor them, people can contribute by visiting this website: www.crowdrise.com/performforboston/fundraiser/PerformforBoston.

health

Jack Kelly: jkelly@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1476.


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