New York City 5K Walk/Run
The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation is delighted to recognize Eric Gelber as the MMRF Spirit of Hope Honoree at the 2015 MMRF Team for Cures: New York City 5K Walk/Run.
During the week, Eric Gelber, a long-time supporter of the MMRF is just a regular hard working businessman, doting father, and loving husband. But come certain weekends, you’ll find Eric transform into an amazing ultra-marathon runner who will stop at nothing in his quest to raise funds to combat multiple myeloma.
Eric’s journey began seven years ago when he decided to get off the couch and run his first marathon to raise funds for cancer research and honor his friend Anita, who was battling multiple myeloma. After that first marathon he started taking on longer distances and tougher challenges. His efforts have inspired others to change their lifestyles as they have trained to run alongside him at various events.
Eric had met Anita and her family on a Club Med vacation that he was on with his family. Her daughters are Eric’s age, but she along with her husband Alan became very close with Eric’s parents and attended every Gelber family function for the next 25 years. At one point Eric saw Anita at his parent’s house following a stem-cell transplant. It was an awful process and Eric decided in that moment he needed to do something. Eric asked Anita what the best organization for multiple myeloma research was. Anita, a very well informed patient, told him about the MMRF. That was the beginning of Eric’s Journey.
“The fundraising takes the running to a whole other level, because it means more to me,” he says. “It’s more than just a personal achievement.”
Eric has completed over 70 races while carrying the MMRF flag since 2007. Many of these are well known including the NYC, Chicago and Marine Corps Marathons, Ironman Lake Placid and the “World’s Toughest Footrace” the Badwater 135 which he has completed twice. Look it up and you will see why. It is 135 miles long, crosses 3 mountain ranges with about 14,000 feet of elevation gain and takes place in the Mojave Desert in July where temperatures consistently exceed 120 degrees and the road surface is a shoe melting 180 degrees. In 2012 Eric actually completed two 50 mile runs, a double non-stop crossing of the Grand Canyon, Badwater 135 and the Chicago and Marine Corps marathons over a 7 month period.
“People tend to donate more to extreme events,” he says. “So I try to do something a little crazier every year.”
That however, is not enough. “It’s always on my mind” says Eric. “I’m always trying to come up with new ideas to push beyond my perceived limits and bring attention to the MMRF. People need to realize how important this is. Not just to me, but all of us.” That is why Eric has created his own events such as the Catskill 155, 48 Hours in Central Park and 200 Miles Towards A Cure which we have now dubbed The Journey. The Journey led him to Central Park in 2013 and 2014 where Eric attempted to run 200 miles non-stop. That is 33 loops around the park. He covered a total of 165 miles and 176 miles respectively and will be heading back on September 16, 2016 for a third and final attempt at 200. The Journey has now raised nearly $700,000 for the MMRF and Eric is hopeful that next year’s effort will break the $1 million mark.
Here is a little look into what makes Eric tick. Anyone who has ever discussed running with him may find it strange that he always refers to his efforts as “we”. After all, Eric is the one doing all the work right? Wrong. Eric considers the running just a part of how he has achieved all of these amazing accomplishments. He often says much of the work is done by his wife and partner in all things that are their lives, Tani. She remains quietly behind the scenes doing whatever needs to be done.
As Eric states, “Tani is a friend, wife, mother, homemaker, shrink, motivator, crew chief and full time supporter of all that I do. Tani gives me the time and peace of mind to run, ride, swim or paint whatever the next masterpiece is. An ultra-marathoner’s support team cares for their children, washes their clothes and encourages that person to push themselves even if it means more time at home alone while worrying if that runner is OK.” Eric gratefully thanks Tani for sharing the dream with him. Without Tani, Eric believes that their Journey Towards a Cure would be impossible.
When asked what this is all about, his answer is Hope. “Hope is what this is all about” says Eric. “Sure I want to raise as much money as possible to help fund research but that only scratches the surface. At the core of every step I take, every hour that my wife and family give to our journey is hope. Hope is what keeps us, our friends with multiple myeloma, their families and care givers going.”
During The Journey in Central Park, where Eric ran for 2 days straight, people reached out from all over the country to say thank you. San Francisco, Chicago and Missouri are a couple of examples. One man visiting from the United Kingdom who had recently been diagnosed with multiple myeloma came out just to say thank you and shake his hand. Shortly after that his friend Trish came out to run with Eric immediately following her chemo treatment. “How could I ever stop this journey after that,” he said.
“There’s no question that Anita was with me on my runs when she was alive,” Gelber said, standing alongside the loop, his upper right arm sporting a tattoo that includes her name. “I still feel she’s with me now, along with all the other patients that are coming out to run with me, walk with me or just to shake my hand and say, ‘Thank you.'”
Before Eric’s friend Anita died she would say “Eric honey, when you run I can feel the medicine going straight into my veins!” Those powerful words are what Eric thinks of every time he is encountering adversity during a run. “Although it’s this awful disease that has brought us all together we feel so incredibly fortunate to know and have these amazing people in our lives and we share this award with you.”
The MMRF works tirelessly to find a cure to extend the lives of patients and is proud to honor Eric Gelber as the 2015 recipient of the MMRF Spirit of Hope Award, given at every MMRF 5K Walk/Run event to a person who inspires hope and shows extraordinary commitment to the MMRF. Eric has touched the myeloma community with his strength of character, his kindness, and his embodiment of hope.