BRONXVILLE, N.Y. - Just months after having 40 percent of his lung removed for cancer treatment, a Bronxville native is keeping a promise he made to himself and will lace up for the Airbnb Brooklyn Half Marathon on Saturday.
Although he’s operating on what he estimated was up to 80 percent lung capacity, 58-year-old Tom Murphy will join 25,000 runners in Brooklyn this weekend for the largest half marathon in the country, three months after undergoing treatment for lung cancer.
An avid runner, Murphy signed up for the half marathon just hours before he received his diagnosis. Despite the less-than-ideal prognosis, he made a promise to himself after that lung biopsy that he would still finish the half marathon.
“I certainly stopped thinking about the half marathon, in that moment, but at the end of the day, I signed up to run a half marathon, and the doctors said it was up to me how hard I wanted to push,” he said. "I had my surgery on a Wednesday (Feb. 5), was discharged on Saturday and back to work on Monday. I was back at the gym the next Saturday.”
Murphy said that his training “takes longer to do the same thing,” and that he has to be more deliberate with his breathing to maximize his diminished lung capacity. He still harbors a lingering cough that occasionally punctuates his words, but Murphy said that there was never a doubt in his mind he’d be in the field running on Saturday.
“In the past, I’ve not shown up to races because I may have woken up late, didn't want to take the ride or didn’t put in the training, but there was no doubt about this one,” he said. “This one, it was like ‘alright, it’s on.’ I have to prove this to myself. It’s almost like the gods had conspired against me and were betting against me, so I had to respond in time.”
There’s no end in sight for Murphy, who is using the Airbnb Brooklyn Half Marathon to ramp up training for his second attempt at the TCS New York City Marathon in November. He said that he hopes when people hear his story and see him cross the finish line that they consider the importance of early detection and that lung cancer can befall anyone, not just cigarette smokers.
On Saturday, Murphy will sport a lung cancer awareness and research shirt and sweatband to “represent the battles he has overcome in the last few months.”
“The big takeaway from all of this for me is that 60 percent of people who die of lung cancer are not smokers. Early detection is the key - I only got scanned because my sister got diagnosed and she was a healthy physician,” he said. “I’ve been racing races for years, even full marathons, but training for this race has been a bigger battle both physically and emotionally.”