Justin Daniels is a distance runner from Richmond, Indiana who is dedicated to honoring those who live with COPD by racing in all 50 states in 2015. He started his hobby when his father Leonard, 60, was diagnosed with COPD. “His lungs don’t work very well, so I am making it my mission to spread awareness about this disease,” Justin says. “I set up a booth at each event I am running with information that I am able to pass out to anyone wanting to know more about what I am doing. My mom helps pass out the information while I am running my races, but before and after I am at the booth or walking throughout the area asking people if they know someone living with COPD.”
The COPD Foundation caught up Justin to learn more about his efforts:
Q: How long have you been a runner?
A: I started out running while I was in high school as a Junior and Senior where I was a member of the cross country team as well as the track team. I started getting serious about distance running in 2011 when I found out my dad had COPD. I felt like I needed to do something not only for him but for everyone else living with the disease. I knew there wasn’t much I could really do besides make people more aware of what COPD actually is, as well try and raise money to help find a cure.
Q: How did you get involved in raising awareness for COPD?
A: I feel there are so many people living in the United States alone that know nothing or very little about what COPD is and how they can get treated to live a better life. I have worked at Reid Hospital in Richmond, Indiana for almost 2 years now and I see a lot of COPD patients in the ICU. I feel that with increased education they might be able to avoid a trip to the hospital and could have a better chance at living a more normal life.
Q: When you started your endeavor two years ago, what was your main goal?
A: When I first started doing the marathons 2 years ago, my main goal was to run a marathon in honor of my dad and everyone else living with COPD. After running that first marathon I felt like I couldn’t do another one because of the pain I was in, but after awhile I thought about how my dad and everyone with COPD endure a lot more pain, so I continued.
Q: What are your goals now?
A: My current goal is to run a marathon in all 50 states; I would like to do this as soon as I can. On November 1st, 2014 I completed my 4th marathon – my biggest and toughest race so far. I raced the Chicago marathon on October 12th, 2014 and I wanted to see how I would feel after only taking 2 weeks off. I actually felt really good, so now I know I can run races closer together. I feel running in every state will give me a chance to spread the word and pass out information to as many people as possible - just in case they have symptoms so they are able to get checked out by their doctor. It also gives me the chance to meet COPD patients that live with the disease on a daily basis. I want the races to give patients hope and reassurance that there is someone out there taking action to give them a voice.
Q: What inspires you to continue racing for COPD awareness?
A: My main inspiration to keep running to bring awareness to COPD is my dad and the millions of people living with COPD each day. My dad and I have a very close relationship with each other. Every other person with COPD has family that care about them as well. I feel this is the least I could do to honor them the best way I can. On days when the weather isn’t perfect or I’m too tired, I look around and think, “My life’s not so bad,” which then inspires me to get out the door and go.
Q: What advice do you have for others who would like to take similar action?
A: My advice for anyone who would like to take action is to research as much information you can so you have knowledge of what the disease actually is. I also think whatever you choose to do to make people aware, make sure you give it 110% all the time, even when you think it may not be possible. You can achieve anything if you really want to – it just may take more time.
You can find Justin’s “Run for a Cure” Facebook page here.