Racin' for a Reason

This month, John Martin, 38, will soon be crossing the finish line at the ING NYC Marathon - a feat that seemed totally impossible just a few years ago when he faced kidney failure. The fact that the marathon coincides with the month of Thanksgiving, is even more fitting because Martin had not appreciated his kidneys until they stopped doing their job. He's also eternally grateful to his Dad who saved his life by donating a kidney and there's no better way to express that thanks than by running a marathon and showing the world the power of his life-saving gift.

Martin was a busy photojournalist when woke up one morning and could barely see the breakfast table. He ran to the eye doctor, who was baffled, especially when he saw Martin's eyes had filled with blood - a sign of high blood pressure, Martin later learned. He found himself in the ER, minutes away from a stroke when bloodwork showed that he had no kidney function left. Doctors were able to stabilize him, but he knew that ultimately, a transplant was inevitable.

As soon as Martin learned of his plight, his Dad stepped up and offered him one of his kidneys. His father, who had been running marathons and triathlons for a decade, was in "tip top shape," according to Martin, and the family member who would rebound the quickest. Martin reports that while going through the transplant process, he was scared to death. "I had no idea how I was going to handle the surgery or what life would be like post-transplant."

Martin and his dad went under the knife in March of 2000 and dad completed a half Ironman less than three months after he donated his kidney. Martin reflects on how appreciative and grateful he is that his father was willing to donate his kidney. Additionally, he shares that both he and his father lead lives that are "totally normal." In fact, Martin shares that his only reminders of his transplant are physical: "a scar and the pills I take twice a day."

A few years post-transplant, Martin had gained a few pounds, which he attributed to "sympathy weight after his wife had a baby." His clothes were tighter and he had no energy. His dad began nudging him to start running and so one day, he decided to humor him and went out for a run. Martin attributes his motivation to become a runner to his father's influence. Less than six months after that first neighborhood run, he completed his first 10k. On the 10th anniversary of their transplant surgeries, Martin and his dad ran a full marathon in California. As soon as he got back home, he immediately began thinking about topping that experience.

It struck him that running the ING NYC Marathon was the goal he wanted to set for himself. As he pounds the pavement this month, Martin is especially grateful for the many gifts that his father has given him - particularly the gift of life and the inspiration to run.

Martin says, "I'm running for a charity that's close to my heart, or maybe I should say my kidney - the National Kidney Foundation." Martin set his fundraising goal at $6K and hopes to exceed that. "My friends, family and clients are so supportive. I have such a personal connection to this charity and everyone knows that, so they're opening their pockets. My dad and I want to get the message across that donors can bounce back and have a full and meaningful life. My dad is a perfect example of someone who has not been slowed down in the slightest since giving up a kidney. And for me, it's motivation. If I'm running and I feel like slacking off, I just remind myself that I owe it to my dad to stay in shape and to keep his kidney healthy."

Martin has another motivator and she wears pink Mary Janes. "I want to be around to take my 3 year-old daughter to the playground, to clap at her school plays and to watch her grow up. I'm thankful for every day I have with my daughter, my wife and for every mile I run."

Clearly, there's a lot for Martin to be thankful for this year. Click here to follow Martin or donate to his team, as he makes a difference one stride at a time this holiday season.