South Charlotte

He's running for good reason

Karl Kauffman, 39, will admit he has a problem.

He's addicted to running.

"I used to not be a runner at all," he said. "Now I run four or five times a week. It's an obsession."

Kauffman's obsession has benefited many people, as he has raised almost $140,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by running 13 half and full marathons.

"I'm just blessed to have so many generous friends," said the SouthPark resident. "The donors are the ones who do the heavy lifting. I just do the running."

Kauffman's running began nearly seven years ago, when he was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma in January 2005. He went to the doctor with symptoms of gallstones and left with a diagnosis of a malignant tumor.

"I couldn't believe it because I didn't have any symptoms of the disease," said Kauffman. "But I tried not to dwell on it. I know things like this can get fairly depressing. I wanted to be strong for my family."

The tumor was removed, but his doctor didn't want to begin treatment until he started showing symptoms. Kauffman said that until then, he tried to live as normally as possible. He was preparing his taxes when he came across a check he'd written to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

"I had completely forgotten about it," said Kauffman. "I'd written a check for a colleague of mine who had run a marathon as part of the society's Team in Training program. I thought, if there's a way to fight against this thing, maybe this is the way to do it."

The Team in Training program is a training process that prepares members for running half marathons - 13.1 miles - full marathons of 26.2 miles and triathlons.

"The training was pretty challenging," said Kauffman. "You get up off the couch and your body's not ready for it. You're not mentally prepared for it. My first five-mile run was amazing and exhausting all at same time, and that's not even half of a half marathon."

Kauffman was also getting treatment for his lymphoma while he was training. He was enrolled in a clinical trial of immunotherapy that enabled him to continue running.

"There were virtually no side effects," he said. "I was very lucky. It helped me to discover how much I loved running."

Kauffman said that after his first half marathon, he wasn't sure he'd ever do it again.

"It's daunting, but once you get over the hump where you think you could never do it again, that's when you are prepared for the next one," he said. "The full marathon is still a struggle for me, but I'd really like to work my way up to a triathlon."

Kauffman raises money by sending email blasts, talking with people and holding events. Every year he hosts two events, The Money Bomb and Oktoberfest.

"The Money Bomb is our big email donation day where we, as nicely and non-naggingly as possible, get our donors to donate all on the same day," Kauffman said. "We were able to raise $6,000 this year during the event."

His favorite event is Oktoberfest. Kauffman and his family moved to the SouthPark area about a year ago from Washington, D.C., and he said that although they didn't know many people in the area, the event went well.

He and his wife, Stephanie, matched up to $1,000 of donations. Bank of America, where Kauffman works as a lawyer, also matched the $1,000 donation.

"It's basically a glorified happy hour, where we do raffles and a silent auction," he said. "But we made between $4,000-$5,000 dollars. That's a pretty good happy hour."

So far this year, Kauffman has raised $20,000 for the society. His lymphoma has been in remission for six years.

"They are doing so many great things in patient care and research and are doing so much in the way of potential cures and treatment," he said. "My type of lymphoma is most likely to come back, but these are such good people that it encourages me to keep going."