Why We Run: channeling father's spirit for others

(NEWS CENTER) -- Everyone has their special pre-race ritual. It may be spaghetti dinner or wearing special socks. Paul Icovitti's ritual wasn't exactly typically.

"We were talking about different things we did getting ready for races. And he said, 'I don't know. I had two beers and a Xanax and I was good to go.' And we were 'like oh my God.' So that became our running joke," said his daughter Kerri Neal.

That was how Icovitti rolled. He was a Vietnam veteran with a wicked sense of humor. He suffered from PTSD and helped others suffering. Neal described her father as the rock of the family, never one to show weakness.

"He didn't know how sick he was until, I'd say, three days before he died," said Neal.

Doctors diagnosed Icovitti in 2005 with sarcoma. He fought the cancerous tumors in his lungs and stomach for seven years, undergoing seven clinical trials at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Neal said the hope that one of the trials might find a cure kept her father going. He felt that even if it didn't help him recover, it could help others.

Throughout his treatment, Neal said her father didn't complain once. Even his last words were full of his spirit.

"The nurse had the IV medicine, and she said, 'are you ready?' That that held so much. We all knew what it meant. He looked at her and just said, 'bring it on.' And we said, 'Okay, you know, here we go.' That was his attitude about everything," she said.

Now that's Neal's attitude as she trains for her second Boston Marathon.

"Every time someone gets diagnosed, my first thought is... oh, I'm going to have to put those running shoes back on."

It's father's spirit that helps her tie up her laces and hit the road.


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