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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 21, 2006

Personal bests at Boston will have to wait till '07

 •  The Boston experience
 •  Sterling, Dorian earn big-wave accolades
 •  Sports notices

By Tim Noonan
Special to The Advertiser

Before the race, Hawai‘i runners gathered at Pete Thalmann’s “Hawai‘i House,” about 200 yards from the Boston Marathon starting line.

Tim Noonan photos

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The Noonans — from left, Joe, Tim and Kelly — overcame adversity to complete Monday’s Boston Marathon.

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Editor's note: Waimanalo's Tim Noonan finished Monday's Boston Marathon in 3 hours, eight minutes and 18 seconds. It was quite an accomplishment considering what he had to endure. Here is his story.

The marathon can produce excruciating pain, and if you've never run one, it's impossible to understand.

The problem is that the pain doesn't stop at the finish line. It lingers on for another week. Every time you walk down stairs you are reminded of the experience, for better or for worse.

After my slow running time at the 2005 Boston Marathon, I thought 2006 would be my year.

I had a whole year to prepare for another try at conquering the historic Boston course. My father, Joe, had just completed his 16th Boston Marathon and my wife, Kelly, had run her second with me. We would all be back in 2006.

My father had been diagnosed with bladder cancer one month before the 2005 marathon but put off surgery and chemotherapy until after the marathon.

Of course, his plan was to recover quickly and get right back to training. A perfectly reasonable plan for a marathoner, a crazy plan for those who don't understand the pain and accomplishment of the marathon.

As everything in life, it would not go as planned.

One month after the marathon I was at the doctor's office complaining of pain.

Twenty-four hours later I was recovering from surgery for testicular cancer.

I couldn't run for a month.

So now both my father and I were recovering from cancer.

We could have quit right there. But being marathoners, we refused to give up.

When the pain in your legs reaches its worst, you just keep going because you have to reach the finish line.

Kelly kept up my spirits, supporting me, cooking for me, talking about how we would run Boston this year and set a PR (personal record). I just hoped to be able to keep up with Kelly when I returned from my recovery.

Then in October, my father was told his bladder cancer had returned and he would need surgery and treatment again.

Once again he was going to have surgery in January, go through chemotherapy and continue to train for the marathon.

We would both be hoping for a cancer-free 2006 marathon.

Ten days before the marathon he completed his treatment and we both lined up for another try at 26.2 miles.

I had set my goals back in June. I was determined to run personal record times and come back stronger than ever.

Kelly and I embarked on an ambitious plan to become faster and stronger.

However, my first 5K race was 23 minutes — more than five minutes slower than what I was running before my cancer surgery.

However, we were in shape by October when we traveled to California for the Big Sur Half Marathon, where we both set PRs. We were ready to qualify for Boston in January when we traveled to Phoenix for the Rock and Roll Marathon. Again, we both set PRs and we were primed for Boston.

The race is now over. Kelly and I each had been sick for three to four weeks of our training; my father had just come off treatment. In fact, Kelly was still sick on race day, coughing up at each mile marker.

Our legs hurt and we all finished (Kelly in 3:46:32; Joe in 3:44:03). We did not reach our goals, but our achievements and what we accomplished despite the odds stand. We will be back next year, cancer-free and ready to set new PRs.