Running With Heart
After getting a second chance, Mark Wagner now gives them
On Oct. 12, he will run his second marathon the 24th annual Royal Victoria Marathon since receiving a mechanical heart valve. He is collecting pledges so that with each mile he runs, more money will go to help children with HIV/AIDS.
Wagner, 43, was an active youth and young man, but work, with shifts 12 to 15 hours long, and a family, with six children, crimped exercise time. Almost three years ago, his undetected genetic heart condition took over. It wasn't until he suffered bouts with fatigue that he went to a doctor.
After a year of recovery, he returned to work as a fuel-truck driver, and on New Year's Day 2002 he made a resolution: He'd get in shape.
"My doctor said I could do pretty much any activity I wanted, so I took him up on his word." He started gingerly, jogging a mile. Eventually, he went two, then three. "Every time I increased my distance in training," he says, "from 2 miles to 2½ or 2½ to 3, I wondered if my valve was going to make it."
Eventually, he began running every other day. Then he started making goals. Then he wondered if he could finish a 10K. Almost immediately after finishing the race on Lopez Island, he and his sister talked about tackling a marathon.
"The 'we' turned into 'me,' " he says, laughing.
Using a computerized training program, he was up to 15K within three weeks. By last October, he entered and finished the Portland Marathon in just under five hours.
The first race was for himself, his family and others in his situation, but he felt it needed to be about more this time. He teamed with World Vision, a Federal Way-based Christian humanitarian organization that serves poor families and children in almost 100 countries.
"I got a second chance," says Wagner, a deeply religious man. "I'd like to do something to give someone else a chance, too."
He believes his first marathon marked only the second time a person with a mechanical heart valve had finished a race of that length. He also believes Victoria will make him the only such person to do it twice.
Wagner, though, doesn't impress me as a man after personal glory. This run aims to benefit a project called One Life Revolution (www.oneliferevolution.org) a long-term fund-raising effort aimed at delivering help to those most severely injured by HIV/AIDS.
The current focus is on Zambia, where more than 20 percent of the population between 15 and 49 is infected with the deadly virus. Life expectancy in Zambia is just over 30 years old. With more than 86 percent of people living below the poverty line, many children and widows have no means of making money, securing food and necessary health care, or getting an education.
Anyone interested in contributing (pledging $1 per mile would equal $26 if he finishes the 26-mile event) can mail a tax-deductible donation to 2nd Chance: A Run for Hope; World Vision; P.O. Box 9716, Stop 323; Federal Way, WA 98063-9716. Online, go to RunForHopeChild@aol.com to reach Wagner.
Richard Seven is a Pacific Northwest magazine staff writer. Ken Lambert is Seattle Times staff photographer.
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