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Cancer Survivor Conquers Half Marathon

Cancer Survivor Conquers Half Marathon

11th Hour Racing continues to help cancer patients financially, physically and emotionally

Leonel Hernandez-McKinley participated in the Love Run Half Marathon last Sunday after recently overcoming cancer.

The Love Run Half Marathon debuted in Philadelphia three years ago as the largest inaugural half marathon in the United States. Today, it welcomes over 10,000 participants. One in particular stands out amongst the multitude of athletes that competed this year.

One of the great things about running is the incredible community,” says Larry Redrow, co-director of CGI Racing, “Leo embodies that and with every story like his I feel like that sense of community strengthens.”

Leo participated in the Love Run this year as one of its youngest competitors. It was his first race since beating stage four Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. He was diagnosed shortly after joining the Air Force at eighteen-years-old and was quickly introduced to the racing community.

It was during his initial stay at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital that he became familiar with 11th Hour Racing, an organization that seeks to help local cancer patients facing the financial difficulty of their diagnosis. Leo spoke with Michael Rowe, founder and CEO of 11th Hour Racing, and made a promise within the first month of being diagnosed to get healthier and run with the organization.           

“We all face challenges, some larger than others. What defines you is how you face the challenges, win or lose,” says Redrow. “People like Leo amaze me. I’m lucky to have the opportunity to be around such strong people.”

On the days when his motivation was lacking, Leo found inspiration through his mother. When he felt close to quitting, he would remember the nights she spent sleeping in a chair beside his bed when he was in the hospital. He kept in mind all the times she drove him to his appointments while still managing to work and take care of two children, and vowed to cross the finish line for her.

“She saw me at my worst and I want to be at my best for her,” says Leo.

He admits that crossing the finish line was no easy victory. Throughout the race, he battled fierce leg cramps and struggled to keep a consistent pace. While being interviewed he laughs and admits he even got sick along the course. However, with the support of close friends from 11th Hour Racing running beside him and offering words of encouragement, Leo was able to complete all 13.1 miles of the race.

            Now, Leo plans to continue running and training for future races. He hopes to return next year and participate from start to finish without stopping and gain an even better race time. In addition, he’d like to push himself even further and complete a full marathon.

“I hope I was able to inspire some people,” says Leo, “I hope they can see me and see there’s a brighter side to this and can keep fighting.”

11th Hour Racing supports oncology patients by reducing the financial burdens that accompany illness. Your donation is welcome. Donate and like 11th Hour Racing now.

Check out Journey To A Half Marathon - featuring founder Mike Rowe.

Contributing Author - Carly Redrow