OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Race together. Train Alone.
Greg Gerardy is familiar with the routine of long-distance running, but he is alone in more ways than you might think.
“I’m a special case,” he smiles.
Step back more than two decades and he was an active 28-year-old who thought he just had a stubborn pinched nerve in his neck.
A CT scan held the worst news possible.
He recalls his doctors telling him, “There is a massive tumor in there. It was all around my spine and down into my thoracic cavity, and into my shoulder.”
His initial prognosis was grim.
Over the next several years, he suffered through multiple surgeries, multiple recurrences, two years of radiation treatments and the maximum allowable doses of chemotherapy.
“I kind of slipped into a black hole there,” he states.
One step forward, two back.
One of his surgeries took 20 hours and some of his tumor is still there.
Cancer’s ravages left him without the use of his right lung.
Gerardy chuckles and says, “One of the first things doctors tell you when you lose a lung is, ‘You’ll never run a marathon again.'”
He did give up.
Greg admits there were years he didn’t exercise at all.
Depression was constant until one day in 2015 when he decided to get up and start moving, very slowly at first.
“I decided I couldn’t live like this. I didn’t like the person I had become.”
“I walked a house, and ran the next house,” he remembers.
It took years of slow but steady progress, but he managed to reach singular status in something apart from his rare illness.
Greg says, “I came to realize there really wasn’t anyone else out there doing these things.”
He is one of about a dozen people with one lung who’ve run a marathon.
He is one of two known ‘one lungers’ who’ve finished an Iron Man length triathlon (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run).
Running all alone is something he’s proud of now.
“I was really kind of amazed at the responses I got,” he admits.
Fellow runners often miss him in races.
He doesn’t look very different from other participants who struggle to keep up, but it’s what’s inside that matters.
His one lung is a little bigger now, just big enough to keep up with a heart that won’t quit.
The 2022 OKC Memorial Marathon takes place April 24.
The race will be Greg’s fifth.
For more information on the event, go to okcmarathon.com.