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Matthews man goes extra mile to fight cancer

By Reid Creager
Correspondent

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Gordon Clemmons knows that running over mountains is nothing compared to the challenges faced by cancer patients.

This explains Clemmons’ humility when talking about his upcoming 414-mile run spanning 30 days, from Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, over the Appalachian Mountains, to the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville, Tenn. The run, averaging about 30 miles a day, is scheduled for Oct. 4-18.

“It’s just my small attempt to make an impact against cancer,” says the 37-year-old Matthews resident, who’ll pay for his expenses. “But mostly it’s a way to get attention so more will donate to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation,” which has funded more than 275 research projects.

Clemmons chose Alex’s over many other cancer fundraising organizations because it focuses on children, and “what I really love about them is that they directly fund research projects. They fund doctors, research scientists and nurses who are on the ground actually really getting usable results.”

Most everyone has had a family member or known someone affected by cancer. When Clemmons was a teenager, his best friend and roommate died of a brain condition connected to cancer.

“I was young, and I really didn’t know how to cope with that, so I probably wasn’t there for him the way I should have been. So part of it is a little bit of a penance,” Clemmons said.

Clemmons’ running background helped make this effort a natural choice for him.

“I grew up in Indian Trail, and before I had a car, all my friends lived miles and miles away, and the only way I could get to their house was to run there.

“I ended up becoming a computer programmer, which made me very sedentary. So several years ago I started doing some really long hikes. Eventually I decided I really wanted to get there faster, so I started running again.”

Clemmons now runs five days a week.

Still, he’s unsure how prepared he is to run through mountainous areas. His wife, Lorissa, and many friends have offered to join him either on bikes or running at various junctures.

“My wife will be driving ahead,” says Clemmons, who also plans to visit the Mission Children’s Hospital in Asheville and the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in Knoxville, Tenn., along the way.

“She’ll stay near me in the SUV and keep me fed, hydrated, and (reasonably) sane.”

He says he plans to divide each day’s 30 miles into three 8-mile legs for seven to eight hours a day.

“On some of the steepest grades in the mountains, I may have to walk, but I’ll get there by my two feet one way or another.

“There will also be one or two un-runnable pieces. For instance, on the first day there’s a bridge I have to cross that has zero pedestrian space, so I’ll get a ride across this. It’s only about 500 feet, so in the grand, 414-mile scheme of things, I don’t think that’s cheating.”

Lorissa Clemmons, who has friends battling cancer, admits she’s “definitely worried about the toll this will take on him.

“He’s working hard to train, both physically and mentally, and I know that once he sets his mind to something, he will always complete it.

“But it is a very challenging endeavor he’s undertaking. He doesn’t do things small.”

Reid Creager is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Reid? Email him at reidcreager@yahoo.com.
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