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AICR eNews May 2012 | Issue 70

Goofy and Dedicated, Flippant and Inspiring: a Tale of Two TeamAICR Runners

sam ditzell and gordon mcgill

Sam Ditzell and Gordon McGill
Read the story in their words by
following the link on each name.

We've had many dynamic and inspirational runners on TeamAICR over the years, but we've never had a pair quite like the Big Sur International Marathon duo of cancer survivor Gordon McGill and his trainer, Sam Ditzell. Their enthusiasm, candor, commitment, sense of humor, and above all, their deep friendship, are truly inspiring.

We recently asked Sam and Gordon to send us a few thoughts on their training and friendship. We did our best to condense their story here, but it's really worth reading in their own words: Sam's Story, Gordon's Story.

Sam Ditzell and Gordon McGill met in 2008 when Sam helped Gordon and his wife train for the New York City Marathon. After successfully completing the marathon Gordon recalls that, "The experience was so meaningful that I promised myself that I would run another as soon as I could." Sam and Gordon continued to work together in the hopes of training for another race.

However, in 2009 Gordon was diagnosed with bladder cancer and endured multiple rounds of surgery and chemotherapy. Incredibly, this didn't hold Gordon back. Throughout his treatment he continued to train with Sam and kept a great attitude. Sam remembers, "Some days Gordon couldn't even get out of bed during the chemo, but he still only missed a couple of workouts. More than physical determination, Gordon managed to maintain such a positive, goofy, almost child-like attitude throughout his treatment."

Although the training goal for Gordon was the Big Sur International Marathon, he says his time with Sam has provided so much more. Supplementing his cancer treatment with physical activity gave Gordon the strength, energy and fitness to help overcome cancer, and "a continual renewal of a joy for the outdoors, a heartily needed boost in energy, and a deep appreciation for all of the wonderful people who have supported me in life's struggles," he said.

The benefits were not one-sided. Sam found that he could learn about his own strengths and weaknesses by working with Gordon. "I train people's weaknesses for a living: strength, flexibility, posture, mobility, etc. It's my job, so these are usually areas where I excel. I have learned so much from [Gordon] about attitude, focus, and perspective…He taught me to look at any insurmountable problem that I'm facing in my career, relationships, or health and simply say 'surely, there's a way.'"

While much of their friendship is based on a deep mutual respect, their relationship is often far from serious. Sarah Irish, TeamAICR Coordinator, was quickly drawn into a continuous barrage of emails from Sam and Gordon in which they jokingly bickered back and forth, each seeking to get Sarah to intervene on their behalf to get the other to behave in some fashion.

For all three, the camaraderie has been immensely rewarding and is an outstanding example of how Team AICR interacts with and encourages our team members with humor, sometimes unorthodox advice, and most of all, the personal touch that AICR staffers bring to every relationship.

On April 29th, three years after Gordon's initial diagnosis, he and Sam completed the Big Sur International Marathon side by side. "For the past four years, Sam encouraged me every week to fight my disease with a healthy diet, plenty of exercise, and a good attitude. Now, we are both committed to taking the effort to the next level with TeamAICR as we continue the fight against cancer together."

Thanks, Sam and Gordon, and thanks to all of the members of TeamAICR for their hard work and generosity in the fight against cancer.

For information on how you can join TeamAICR visit our events page.


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