After bouts with cancer, Cambria woman is back in the running

Cambria exercise enthusiast Robin McDonnell took a break from the sport and focused on cycling; now she has a new motivation

ktanner@thetribunenews.comOctober 9, 2013 

Robin McDonnell is trying to raise $6,000 for cancer research.


Robin McDonnell of Cambria will go to New York in November to raise money for cancer research by running in a legendary marathon. She is seeking donors to help her meet or exceed her stated goal of $6,000.

Two decades ago, McDonnell was a passionate, even obsessive runner, entering marathons in Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Diego. She was motivated by family history: Both her parents had early-onset heart problems, and her father died at 58 from a heart attack.

But McDonnell also had good reason for not running any more: She was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through treatment, only to go through two subsequent bouts. She endured surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Each time, treatment was more invasive, more intense.

“For some reason,” she said, “I never went back to running.”

The exercise enthusiast shifted to long-distance bicycling because it’s easier on the body — she and husband Paul are members of Cambria’s Slabtown Rollers Cycling Club.

However, the 62-year-old has been motivated to run again by pure inspiration during a recent tragedy.

While watching the enormous human toll unfold after the Boston Marathon bombings, McDonnell and the world saw 78-year-old Bill Iffrig of Lake Stevens, Wash., blown to the ground by the concussion of the explosion. Then he rose from the chaos “and finished the race,” McDonnell said. “There he was, doing that wonderful thing. And all these years, I thought I was too old?”

She began running again and found that participating in fundraising events “became part of my recovery process. The physical effort restored my strength, and being part of a good cause helped to heal my psyche.”

McDonnell ran in the Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco in May and signed up for the elite ING New York City Marathon on Nov. 3.

She’ll run for Fred’s Team, the group begun by the marathon’s founder and race director Fred Lebow, who “died in his 80s of brain cancer,” McDonnell said. “His team raises money for cancer research. It seemed the perfect way to come back to the sport.”

How you can help

Sign up as a donor for Robin McDonnell’s run in the 2012 ING New York City Marathon by going to the website and searching for Robin McDonnell. All donations are tax deductible.

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