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30 Year Old Man with Cystic Fibrosis Qualifies for the Boston Marathon

02/20/2013

After running about 24 miles during a race last summer, Joshua Skampo realized that his time finally might be good enough to qualify for the famed Boston Marathon this April.

It was June in Charlevoix when the 30-year-old Monroe resident needed to complete the 26-mile race in 3 hours, 5 minutes or less. And nothing — not the aching and burning sensation in his legs or the cystic fibrosis that has limited his lungs since birth — would keep him from his mission.

I knew I was close,” Mr. Skampo said. “I knew I had about 30 seconds to play with. This was my shot.”

He crossed the finish line that summer day at 3 hours, 4 minutes, 12 seconds, good for eighth place out of 334 runners. With 48 seconds to spare, Mr. Skampo achieved a goal few runners have accomplished: qualifying for the prestigious Boston Marathon.

And, remarkably, he did it with only 65 to 70 percent lung function.

“It’s the biggest marathon around,” Mr. Skampo said. “They don’t let just anybody into it.”

Cystic fibrosis is an incurable disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs. It is deadly, and the average lifespan for people with CF who live to adulthood is approximately 37 years.

“I don’t know what normal breathing feels like,” he said. “It’s like you have pneumonia all the time.”

But Mr. Skampo refuses to dwell on it or allow it to dictate his life. Running, he said, is therapeutic and actually helps clear his lungs. So he started in middle school and gradually increased his distance to marathons as he got older.

“It’s what keeps me healthy,” he said. “I have to run today so I can breathe tomorrow.”

He runs to and from work. He runs in races. He runs for fun. He runs to clear his lungs, but he’s also competitive. That’s why it was important for him to beat the 3 hour, 5 minute mark in Charlevoix last June; he wants to race in Boston.

His goal is to break the three-hour mark. If he does, Mr. Skampo believes he could finish in the 1,000th place range out of between 23,000 and 25,000 competitors.

Despite his chronic lung disease, Mr. Skampo doesn’t want special consideration. Although he knows of only one other marathoner with CF — a man in Colorado — he prefers to remain low-key, so he hasn’t researched that type of information. Instead, he focuses on how he can improve his time.

With only about two months until Boston, Mr. Skampo is in the midst of training. An engineer at Fluid Equipment Development Co. (FEDCO), Mr. Skampo commutes in his running shoes several times a week. He’ll run about 55 to 60 miles a week and is on pace to run 2,600 miles for the year, his most ever. He grew up in Adrian, but he and his wife, Melissa, have lived in Monroe for about five years.

Although he wears bright fluorescent colors, motorists don’t always see him or pay attention. He had a close call once when a car bumped him, and sometimes he has to endure taunts or items thrown at him. But he endures. Mr. Skampo just keeps going.

In addition to the qualifier in Charlevoix, Mr. Skampo has run three other marathons in his life. And, on April 15, he will compete in his fifth, which also will be his most important race.

“(The Boston Marathon) has always been a goal of mine,” he said. “I’m excited. I want to put in the work and do my best. I just want to do my best.”

Source: Monroe News

by: Ray Kisonas 

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