At 6:21 p.m. on September 18, 2016, the sun was beginning to set in New York City, and Eric Gelber started his final lap around Central Park. A crowd of supporters were running with him and cheering him on, and cowbells were ringing along the race course. Every step was painful. When he finally crossed the finish line, he broke down and kissed and hugged his wife. He had just run 200 miles and raised over $320,000—bringing his lifetime fundraising total to more than $1.1 million and moving us one step closer to a cure for multiple myeloma.
But for Gelber, the journey is not over yet. Now, he’s inviting other runners from the New York City area and beyond to join him on The Journey Towards a Cure initiative by taking part in a 12-hour endurance run/relay on October 6, 2018, to support the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF).
In anticipation of this new chapter in a personal journey he started more than a decade ago, Gelber explains what keeps him coming back to this cause, how this year’s event will be different than his previous efforts and why it remains vital to support multiple myeloma research.
What did it feel like to finally achieve that 200-mile run?
“It was unbelievable. I was somewhat out of it when I finished, but it felt like a dream. After two failed attempts, it was an amazing feeling to fulfill that goal. I was thinking of what all the people on my support team and I had just accomplished. Together, we pushed our cumulative fundraising total to over $1.1 million.
I’m not sure what would have happened if I did not complete all 200 miles. I decided it would be my final attempt before I did it. The following year, a documentary was released at the Tribeca Film Festival to tell my story and the stories of my friends who have been affected by multiple myeloma. I hope our story inspires more people to support this effort.”
What kept you coming back year after year to push yourself to your limits and raise money for multiple myeloma research?
“Over time, this became a massive part of our lives, and I keep coming back because I want to do as much as I can to support the MMRF.
I’m not a scientist. I’m not a doctor. But I can run, and I can fundraise. That’s my way of getting us one step closer to a cure for multiple myeloma.”
This year, you are encouraging others to run a 12-hour relay race. Why did you feel it was time to change the event?
“This year, there is a different format. I wanted others to feel like they were actively helping the cause as well. An event that gets people to come out and push themselves—either solo or in a team—expands the idea of building a community. I didn’t expect it would take this format, but it was time to evolve.
There will be the race followed by a celebration with food, kids’ activities and a music festival with four live bands. It’s important to give people a reason to come together, share their stories and celebrate life in a fun atmosphere. I’m looking forward to this new chapter.”
What advice do you have for someone who wants to get involved with this year’s event?
“If you’ve never run a race before, be cautious and set achievable goals. Pace yourself so you avoid getting injured. There is an athlete in all of us, but you don’t have to run for 12 hours. You can a join a five- or 10-person relay team and run for as long as you can. As long as you’re challenging yourself, there’s a lot to be proud of.
If you are unable to run, there’s the option to walk a loop on the course. We also need volunteers to help direct traffic, register participants and manage aid stations. All of that is critical to making this event possible.”
One of my friends has been living with multiple myeloma for 20 years. Part of that is because there are more treatments available now. It’s very encouraging.
How do you feel about the progress made in the treatment of multiple myeloma over the last decade?
“I see progress in the faces of my friends who have multiple myeloma. They’re living longer. One of my friends has been living with multiple myeloma for 20 years. Part of that is because there are more treatments available now. It’s very encouraging.
There’s still a considerable amount of work to be done. We still don’t have a cure. That’s why we’re opening the event to a broader audience. I’m still learning about organizing and putting together an event as big as this. But sometimes you have to go for it and try—just like attempting to run 200 miles. You take it one step at a time.”
To learn more about the upcoming The Journey Towards a Cure event, visit The Journey Endurance Run/Relay website.