Team Parkinson in San Francisco -- June, 2013 - 07/04/2013

Those loyal members of Team Parkinson who live in or near San Francisco are very much aware of the impact the America’s Cup sailing event is having on the City. The huge demands for city services created by the Cup forced many other events to shift out of their traditional slots on the calendar.  The San Francisco Marathon, for example, was moved from its usual date at the end of July to Father’s Day, June 16, 2013.  This change in schedule made it difficult for many organizations to reach the level of participation they normally expect from the event. Team Parkinson was no exception.  With the retirement of our local Coordinator for the event, we had a lot more work to do from our home in Whittier, and with six weeks less to prepare--we had to scramble to get ready. Fortunately, we were able to pull things together and brought a team of 50 athletes together for both a successful race day, and a successful fund raising effort.

Our Team Parkinson booth at the Marathon Expo, staffed by Carol Walton, CEO of The Parkinson Alliance, our parent organization, and John and Edna Ball, Co-chairs of Team Parkinson, was well attended on both Friday and Saturday. Our primary sponsor, Abbvie, was also represented by Shelly Byrum, who collected signatures on the Abbvie Wall of Hope.  Abbvie donates $15 to PD research for every signature gathered.  I didn’t stop to count them, but the signatures covered nearly every square inch of the two large 3’x6’ panels.  Carol, Shelly, Edna and I all love meeting people at the Expo. It is exciting to discover their connection to Parkinson’s disease.  We made some excellent new connections, offered assistance or information to some who needed it, and encouraged several people to take a bigger role in supporting the Parkinson’s community.

Race Day, Sunday, June 16, was an all-out effort by many Team P members under nearly perfect weather conditions. The air temperature was in the 50’s and air was crisp and clean.  The sun hid behind a layer of high clouds until the very end of the marathon.  Everyone who participated in the event for Team Parkinson successfully completed their race, but one team member deserves special mention.  Dr. Arthur Fitzmaurice, a recent graduate of UCLA’s fine neuroscience program, decided to run the Worth the Hurt Challenge.  He was one of just 17 runners who ran two marathons back-to-back, beginning at midnight and finishing with the multitudes of runners in the marathon and second half marathon. That’s 52.4 miles of running without a break! He finished the task in 10 hours and 8 minutes. Our hats are off to you, Arthur… That’s downright sick!

There were so many success stories it’s impossible to list them all, but I’m going to have to give special thanks to a couple of guys who helped me achieve a goal I wasn’t sure I could make.  After two years of struggle that included trips to the hospital for respiratory concerns, two back surgeries, prostate biopsy, and chronic infection, I completed my first half-marathon in almost two years with the help of my two dear friends Mark Saxonberg and Gregg Riehl.  I am happy just to be running again, and to share my Father's Day with Team Parkinson and the 25,000 other runners at the San Francisco Marathon.  Mark, Gregg and I started the race with the final wave at 6:30 AM and gradually worked our way to the back of the pack. With their help and encouragement, I was able to shuffle around the course and across the Golden Gate Bridge under absolutely beautiful skies.  They both showed considerable patience.

When I pulled away at the first half finish chute, the two of them continued on through the rest of the 26.2 miles. Then I caught the bus back to the start line and our Team Parkinson cheering station. I was slow and not in good running condition, but I did finish the race in 2 hours and 45 minutes, which was about what I expected. Mark blasted the second half in a little over two hours, finishing in 4 hours, 54 minutes, and Gregg continued the race steadily, finishing in 6 hours and 1 minute. Gregg has Parkinson's and has been treated with Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) therapy. He is the 25th Parkinson's patient to complete a marathon for Team Parkinson. Our entire team is very proud of his achievement.

While Mark and Gregg, were out running the full marathon, Mark’s wife, Susan Saxonberg, was teaming up with Carol Walton, Team Parkinson’s ‘guardian angel’ at the Parkinson Alliance, in the second half marathon. They finished quicker than expected.

One very special shout out to Grace Volonoski, our youngest half-marathoner at 10 years old, who ran with her dad, Craig Volonoski, and in honor of her Grandpa who has Parkinson’s. Grace finished her race in 2 hours and 51 minutes and also raised over $1,000. Great job!

I wish I could give the details of each team member’s successful race, but I didn’t see most of them, since it took quite a while to get on the bus and back to the finish area. I’ll have to let Edna fill in the remaining part of the story.



While the Marathoners and Half Marathoners were out on the course throughout the beautiful city of San Francisco, I was at the 5K watching proudly and photographing our Team Parkinson members along the 5K route. Thanks to Maggie and Jen Bugnatto and Katherine Mohr for carrying our TP sign along the whole 3.1-mile course. We were well represented by our bright blue shirts along the way. A special shout out to Team Balingit with over 20 members on their great team all running and walking for Robin. What a great tribute to him on Father’s Day, and he was out there walking too so good for him! Our fastest TP 5K finisher was Christopher Santijanna, running in honor of his Dad. Way to go Chris.

All in all, considering all the changes we faced with the date, it was a very successful weekend and we’ve raised over $54,000 and counting. Fundraising for the SF event stays open until July 31st so there’s still time to make a difference. And please mark your calendars for next year when we’ll be back to normal with the SF Marathon on Sunday, July 27, 2014.

Thank you all so much for your participation and dedication to this great cause. You inspire us to keep doing what we’re doing as we continue to strive for a cure.


View photos from SF 2013