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Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.

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Former World Class Runner Leads Drive For Cancer Research Funding

 

Running aficionados will remember Ken Martin as a versatile and gifted runner with Rod Dixon-like range. In 1980 he set the University of Oregon steeplechase record of 8:20.9 – a Duck mark that still stands today. And Martin’s accomplished post-collegiate racing career is decorated with many marathon and road racing victories and is highlighted with a 1989 marathon PR of 2:09:38. No one would dispute that Ken Martin – a 2014 inductee into the Road Runners Club of America American Long Distance Running Hall of Fame – has compiled one of the more impressive American distance running resumés in the post-Salazar era.

John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” And in the last half dozen years, life got in the way for Ken Martin. In 2009, persistent stomach issues while traveling abroad eventually led to Ken securing a detailed analysis of his condition. A CT scan revealed that Martin had contracted non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin lymphoma.

For a while, his situation was treated effectively with chemotherapy. After resuming training in his quest to break the 50-54 age group world record in the mile, the non-Hodgkin lymphoma returned in a more aggressive form. The disruption to his training when combined with the myriad of emotions – fear, anger, loss of control, frustration – that engulfed him was nearly overwhelming. “I was mad as hell at first” exclaims Martin who was then required to resume chemo treatments. To soothe his emotions just as much as to maintain his training regimen, Martin lugged a bedraggled old stationery bike into his hotel room. During his return to treatment, he pounded on the bike 30 minutes each day – not only to give himself a good cardiovascular workout, but also to calm his swirl of emotions.

In late 2012, Martin learned that a third strain of cancer – diffused large B cell lymphoma – had been discovered. In mid-February of 2013, Martin was back in the hospital to resume the battle. Martin never doubted that the stationary bike sessions gave him a cleansing workout, helped fortify his mental and physical strength, and lifted his spirits. But he soon began to wonder if there might also be a beneficial physiological component to be derived from blending exercise in during chemotherapy. “It was clear that there were real gaps in the research about how exercise impacted the physiology of cancer and its treatment,” Martin reveals.

After three bouts with cancer, Martin became curious to learn more – not merely about the disease, but also about how working out impacted it. While the cancer research in this area is relatively sparse and largely outdated, there is a small but growing body of research that seems to suggest that low to moderate intensity exercise may help promote more effective tumor blood flow which could have the capability to render chemotherapy more effective. Martin – along with others – recognizes the importance of drilling down to learn specifics about this observation and why it occurs.

“I had read research over the past several years attempting to learn how I could improve my survival. I learned that my continued exercise might well help me a great deal,” he explains. But Martin found the available research in this area unsatisfying. “The research I uncovered in this area seemed somewhat superficial and incomplete. I wanted to know what it [the exercise] would be doing to my cancer. Is it changing my mass, my structure?,” asks Martin. “I wanted to know how my training would be impacting all of this. And there were no answers. If exercise could help prevent the recurrence of breast cancer and colon cancer and prostate cancer, what could exercise mean with other types of cancers?” Pausing, Martin adds, “They don’t know. And we will never know unless we do more research like this,” Martin challenges.

Martin’s efforts to elicit interest in this narrow area of important cancer research initially yielded no meaningful assistance. “I tried writing to various cancer foundations. These people weren’t really focused upon what I am talking about,” Martin offered. “Others sensed my frustration and suggested that maybe I do it myself.”

Ultimately, Martin made contact with Dr. Gary Kimmel, a retired Texas physician affiliated with the Cancer Foundation for Life. With Kimmel’s assistance and guidance, Martin created the WorkOut Cancer Research Fund– a research fund under the auspices of the Cancer Foundation for Life. “I wanted to create this research fund that just funds research on exercise and its effect on cures and cancer treatments.” And with Kimmel’s tutelage, Martin – who is the founder and a director of the Fund – was able to do just that.

After several twists and turns during the organizational process, the WorkOut Cancer Research Fund is poised to begin its real work. For Ken Martin – now 55, married, father of three children, and recent competitor on a transplant relay team in the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon earlier this spring – the objective is that the Fund grow to serve as an effective rallying point for cancer patients, their families, and athletes alike – a vehicle to raise funds to upgrade long-outdated cancer research in this particular and complicated area. In its Mission Statement, the Fund notes that it “supports pilot and pre-clinical studies investigating the effects of exercise on tumor physiology and on cancer treatments.” More specifically, the Fund clarifies its objectives by stating, “WorkOut Cancer’s mission is to provide financial support to researchers investigating how cancer patients might be able to use exercise to: (i) decrease treatment side effects; (ii) maximize responses to treatments and improve patient survival; and (iii) reduce metastases and cancer reoccurrence.” You can learn more at www.workoutcancer.org

As sterling as Ken Martin’s racing career was – he won the USA Marathon Championships in 1984 and 1985 – his elite running resume is dotted with many second place finishes. An accomplished schoolboy athlete but never a high school state champion, Martin went on to post an outstanding – yet champion-less – collegiate record while at Oregon – finishing 2nd in the 1980 NCAA Div. I 3000m steeplechase and helping the Ducks notch national runner-up finishes in cross country in 1978 and 1979. He was even a member of the 1980 U.S. team which competed in the World Cross Country championships in France. How did the U.S. squad do in the Paris championship race? They finished second. And his 2:09:38 runner-up finish in the 1989 New York City Marathon – impressive to be sure, but not quite to the podium’s top step – is the highlight of his elite running body of work. But now as he raises funding while he champions the cause for much-needed cancer research, Ken Martin may well be on the threshold of an achievement that would cap his life-long running career as no race victory ever could.

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