Ohio Dad Runs His First Marathon Around a Hospital to Honor His Son With Cancer

By | November 7, 2020
kolt codner and his son, andrew, cross the finish line

Courtesy of Akron Children’s Hospital

Crossing the finish line of your first marathon is a major moment for any runner. But for 33-year-old Kolt Codner, the significance of completing 26.2 miles went beyond himself.

Codner ran a marathon to honor Andrew, his four-year-old son who was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. In the process, Codner raised more than $ 15,000 for the hematology and oncology doctors treating him at Akron Children’s Hospital in Akron, Ohio.

“[Akron Children’s] has been so good with Andrew. They’ve made this scary thing that you’d never want to go through as manageable as it could possibly be,” Codner told Runner’s World. “We wanted to give back and do something for a hospital that’s had such an amazing impact on our lives.”

Back in May, Codner and his wife, Tristan, brought Andrew to their pediatrician after noticing some abnormal swelling around his eyes and cheeks. They thought he was experiencing allergies but quickly learned it was much more serious: acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Since Andrew’s diagnosis, Codner has relied on running to unwind and give himself space to reflect. His runs kick off at around 5:00 a.m., after a much-needed cup of coffee.

the codner family after kolt's marathon race around akron children's hospital

Courtesy of Akron Children’s Hospital

“It’s been an awesome opportunity to have that quiet in the morning, to really be thoughtful and set my mind right for the day,” said Codner. “It’s been an amazing anchor for me through all that we’ve gone through.”

Codner’s running journey started about two years ago; after seeing his wife finish the Pittsburgh Half Marathon, he felt motivated to start running as a means of mitigating stress and staying in shape. He followed Runner’s World training plans, starting with the 5K, and in April, he conquered the virtual Pittsburgh Half himself.

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Through this, Codner became familiar with the loop around Akron Children’s. He logged miles during his son’s in-patient visits, always pausing after a lap to wave at Andrew up in his room. He initially planned to run only the half as part of the Akron Marathon races, but after seeing how many runners had elected not to participate in the race after it became virtual, Codner knew he had to do more.

“While in treatment, Andrew pushes himself beyond anything we think any of us could do,” he said. “He and all kids going through pediatric cancer treatment are phenomenally strong. I wanted to push myself to do something that I didn’t know if I could do.”

So, Codner posted a video on Facebook telling Andrew’s story and announcing his entry into the Akron Marathon. His wife, family, and friends shared the video, and after just a couple of weeks, they had raised $ 5,000. To date, the fundraiser has topped over $ 15,000. (You can still donate to his fundraiser here).

That all led to October 17, when Codner laced up his Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% and started out on the 35 laps that made up his marathon around the hospital’s main campus.

On race day, family and friends stationed themselves around Akron Children’s. Some even leapt out onto the course and ran a couple laps with Codner. Throughout the race, Andrew shouted “Go, Dad, go” from his spot along the course, rang his cowbell, tapped his marching-band drum, and played his toy trumpet.

For the last four laps, Tristan joined. She and Codner slowed on the final loop to walk past Andrew’s unit and the first room he was admitted to, reflecting on the journey passed and what still lies ahead for Andrew, who has 26 months left in treatment.

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“It was incredibly meaningful and powerful to take that time as we finished up that last lap, to think and pray,” Codner said.

andrew codner cheering his dad on while he races

Courtesy of Akron Children’s Hospital

Andrew joined his dad for the final quarter-mile, with the two bursting through the finish line together. Codner finished in 5 hours, 19 minutes.

“I didn’t always have that great emotional connection to running that many runners do,” he said. “Now, that’s certainly changed.”

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