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Originally published May 17, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 17, 2009 at 1:09 AM

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Steve Kelley

Friend wants to run marathon to support cancer-stricken friend

Shapiro isn't running for his health, but for the health of his good friend and former walk-on to the University of Washington basketball team Andrew Moritz, who is battling an aggressive form of cancer, desmoplastic small round tumor cancer. Shapiro wants to run to raise money for Moritz's fight, but more than two months before the June 27 marathon, when he tried to register, he was told the spots, all 25,000 of them, were filled. And now he's scrambling to get into the field.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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How to help: To support Daniel Shapiro's run for Andrew Moritz, log on to www.yearofthecomeback.blogspot.com, hit the PayPal icon and reference Shapiro. Or send a check made out to the Andrew Moritz Medical Fund, c/o Daniel Shapiro, 1 Sports Parkway, Sacramento, CA. 95834.

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Daniel Shapiro wants to run.

He has been training for Seattle's June Rock 'n Roll Marathon since February. In fact, he was so nervous about the 18-week training regimen, he began training for the race in January.

Shapiro, 31, the strength and conditioning coach of the Sacramento Kings and a graduate of Seattle Pacific, wants to run so badly, he hasn't skipped a page of marathon guru Hal Higdon's training treatise.

He has gone about his preparations with an ascetic's devotion. If the Kings got into, say, Salt Lake City at 2 a.m., Shapiro still would be on the road for his training run by 10.

He isn't running for his health, but for the health of his good friend and former walk-on to the University of Washington basketball team Andrew Moritz, who is battling an aggressive form of cancer, desmoplastic small round tumor cancer.

Shapiro wants to run to raise money for Moritz's fight, but more than two months before the June 27 marathon, when he tried to register, he was told the spots, all 25,000 of them, were filled. And now he's scrambling to get into the field.

He wants to run. He deserves to run. But to accomplish that goal, to be an official runner in the field, he's going to need a sponsor's exemption.

Get this guy in.

Shapiro, who has survived throat cancer, needs this race. More important, his good friend needs this race.

Fighting cancer is expensive. For Moritz, who lives in St. Louis, there are many expenses that aren't covered by insurance, including airfare to his chemotherapy sessions in Houston, rental cars and meals.

"I want to lighten the struggle for him," Shapiro said.

Sports are supposed to teach us the necessity of overcoming obstacles. The importance of never giving up. Running a marathon tests the limits of human endurance. It answers questions about an athlete's heart and gut.

What better way to respect the spirituality of a marathon than to allow Shapiro to run for his friend. Let Shapiro show his solidarity for Moritz's struggles by pushing himself through the 26.2-mile hell of the race. Let Shapiro honor the Himalayan hurdles Moritz already has cleared.

"Andrew has kind of always overachieved," Shapiro said. "And when you put an obstacle in front of someone like that, an obstacle like a life-threatening disease, those overachiever characteristics shine through even tenfold.

"He's treating this like he's a walk-on again. He's a walk-on with this cancer and he continues to fight and be in better shape than most people who are going through this. That's the one thing I've learned about him, more and more. He really is a special person."

Moritz just finished the sixth week of an eight-week chemotherapy program. He looks at each session as a round in an eight-round boxing match. This is the fight of his life.

"So far Andrew has won every round," Shapiro said. "He was hit pretty hard in the fifth round, but he still won the round. He maintains that fighter's mentality."

Moritz can take a punch. He has been so resilient in this fight that his doctors in Houston have asked him to talk to other cancer patients, to help raise their spirits during the most difficult days.

"I try to relate, as often as I can, to Andrew's struggles," Shapiro said. "I'm not somebody who loves running. I don't have that runner's body. But I think to myself, when I'm running and not feeling real good, or when I'm bored, that I'm running for a greater good. Andrew knows I'm doing this and it's for him.

"This is my first marathon. It's something I never thought I'd do and here I am and what I try to do is put his trials in front of me. I remember what Andrew is going through, not knowing what his next week will bring, so if I'm on mile seven and I have five more to go and I'm tired, I say to myself, 'Wait a minute. This is nothing. Andrew's fighting for his life and here I am just trying to struggle through five more miles.' "

Daniel Shapiro wants to run. He wants to give his own pain a place to live, a place where it can honor the fight his good friend is fighting. Don't you think he deserves the chance?

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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About Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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