By Matt Smith
You know how the saying goes: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” While these words are no doubt sage advice for anyone wishing to achieve any goal, you can bet they’re especially pertinent to Chappaqua resident Eric Gelber, who will take his third stab at running 200 miles on September 16th through New York City’s Central Park to support and raise funds for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.
Gelber began running independently for the cause in 2007, to raise money in support of a friend who had been diagnosed with the disease, an incurable blood cancer that has one of the lowest five-year relative survival rates of all cancers. “It started out with a marathon in New York City,” he explains, “and over the years…sort of built up and [I] started running longer races.”
The idea for the Central Park event arose in 2011, when “I did a solo run through the Catskills,” which he completed in 45 hours, beginning in Oneonta and ending 175 miles later at his parents’ home in Suffern. “It wasn’t a [official] race, though,” he explains. “It was just [of] my own [accord] to raise money…and attract some more attention [to the cause].” However, “when I got there [to the finish line], there were 50-60 people–I could hear them cheering from down the road as we finished and I just knew right then that we were doing something that was making a difference.”
And he capitalized on that feeling. The following year, he ran the Badwater Ultra-marathon in Death Valley, CA, “but the plan was to come back in 2013 and do something in New York City.” And, that September, as planned, the epic Central Park challenge was born.
Gelber initially pledged a goal of 200 miles, which he would achieve by running continuous 6.1 mile loops around Central Park. Though he hasn’t made it quite yet (his previous attempts in 2013 and 2014 covered 164 and 176 miles respectively), after a year off in 2015, during which he returned to Badwater–and raised a whopping $140,000 for the MMRF–he’s excited to be back in New York City for another shot at the 200-mile goal. “8 a.m. [on] September 16th, I’ll be out there,” he says, proudly, noting he’ll begin up at Engineer’s Gate on the East end of the park, “and I’ll [aim to] finish sometime on the 18th.”
If you’re inclined to support Gelber in person, “we’re really easy to find out there,” he says, noting the “big orange MMRF tent” at which he and his team will be situated. “We also have a [Facebook] page called ‘Just a Mile to Go,’” he adds, “where we will post information on how you can actually register and sign up to come run a loop with me, [or] make a donation, or set up your own fundraising page.”
If you can’t yet decide how you’d like to contribute, you can always simply show up at the event and take it from there, which Gelber notes “a lot of people do.” (They’ll also live stream the run straight from the Facebook page as well.).
Whichever way you support, Gelber hopes you do take note of the cause, as it’s near and dear to his heart. To that end, though his friend, Anita Sorrell, unfortunately lost her battle in 2012, his involvement with the MMRF has allowed him and his wife to engage and connect with others who have been affected both directly and indirectly by the cancer. “Sometimes when you lose the person you’re fighting for, your first reaction–which certainly was mine–is ‘What’s the point?’” Gelber explains. “But after taking a step back and thinking about where we were on this journey, my wife and I thought it was important to keep fighting for everybody who’s still with us. So, we do it for them.”
And while it isn’t always easy waking up to a daily 4:30 a.m. alarm and training intensely before heading off to a full-time job, Gelber acknowledges that the strides made in collecting donations and funding further research make it all well worth the effort, stating: “I know that what I am doing is making a real difference in the lives of [multiple myeloma] patients.”
But that’s not to say he does it all solo. Wholly recognizing “there’s no way I could do this on my own,” he wishes to extend sincere thanks to the entire staff at the MMRF for all their help and assistance, as well as his many close friends and family, both here in Chappaqua and in other neighboring towns. Above all, however, he thanks his wife, Tani, and three children, Jared, Kyle, and Isla. “Their support is unwavering,” he says, with a smile. “It’s been amazing.”
In closing, Gelber, who describes himself in three words as “determined [and] mentally tough,” offers a few encouraging words to those “adventurers”–men, yes, but also people of all ages and gender–who might be looking to pursue a similar goal. “I think you just gotta commit,” he says, “and not just to the end goal, but to the process of getting there.”
Citing the multiple myeloma patients and their “incredible mental focus, commitment, and [the fact that they’re] willing to fight,” he reminds the dreamers: “Don’t let anything stand in your way. You gotta follow through, make promises to yourself and keep those promises. I remind myself of the promises I make to myself each night, and I get up and do it. Take one step at a time, and you’ll reach your goal eventually.” And hopefully, if you’re anything like the tenacious Gelber, when you do, the world will be better for it.
For more information on the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, including how to join Gelber in his efforts and/or donate to the cause, please visit www.themmrf.org.