CLEVELAND, Ohio – Brad Lamb won’t be running in the footsteps of tens of thousands of other runners on Sunday when he participates in the virtual 2020 Boston Marathon. He’ll be running in his late father’s footsteps as he circles his Westlake neighborhood 26 times.
William “Bill” Lamb signed up for the 1991 Pedal to the Point, a 150-mile round-trip cycling trek from Cleveland to Cedar Point, to raise money to find a cure for multiple sclerosis after learning that his MS had returned after years in remission. The Ashland Chemical salesman did the charity ride a second time in 1993. His MS eventually took his balance, and he died in 2014 at 68 years old.
Now, 46-year-old Brad Lamb has raised more than $14,000 in his father’s honor for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society as part of his would-be run in the world’s oldest and arguably most famous marathon.
The coronavirus pandemic relegated the marathon to a virtual race. Jogging laps around his Westlake subdivision, where he lives with his wife and two children won’t be the same as running through the historic Boston streets or trying to tackle the infamous Heartbreak Hill. However, Lamb said it will still be an emotional day for him.
“My dad was a pretty big part of my life,” Lamb told cleveland.com in a phone interview Friday. “To be able to honor him and to help out an agency to hopefully find a cure for MS is a tremendous feeling.”
MS is a disease that causes a person’s immune system to attack the central nervous system, and can ultimately cause paralysis or death, according to the National MS Society. The group estimates that more than 1 million people in the United States have the disease. There is no known cure.
Lamb was in high school when his father learned the disease came back, he said. His symptoms were less severe, which motivated him to get involved with Pedal to the Point, Lamb said.
“He saw individuals that were affected by MS far worse than he was, and he wanted to help give back as much as he could in whatever capacity he could,” Lamb said.
Lamb said he remembers how proud his family was of his dad when he finished the 1991 Pedal to the Point.
The Boston Marathon, which began in 1897, routinely draws more than 30,000 runners and requires most runners to qualify by running a certain pace at another marathon. The Boston Athletic Association also grants some slots to different charities to use to raise money. The National MS Society received slots for this year’s marathon and selected Lamb’s application.
He initially pledged to raise $10,000 before the marathon was set to take place in April.
Lamb, a bailiff for Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert McClelland and a former member of the Fairview Park and Ohio state school boards, dashed off countless emails, texts, social-media postings and direct messages to his friends and colleagues. He also got a boost in February when he was featured as the charity runner of the week by a popular running channel on YouTube.
The pandemic forced organizers to postpone the marathon. Then, as the nation struggled to control the spread, the association announced that the marathon would be virtual, with marathoners running the 26.2 miles on their own and logging their official times through a cellphone app.
But Lamb kept raising money. As of Friday, he has received $14,349.10 in pledged donations from 172 people, he said.
“I could not be more thankful to everyone that made a donation,” Lamb said. “It’s very humbling to know that people would not only open up their hearts to help out but their pocketbooks, too.”
This will be Lamb’s eighth marathon. He has run the Columbus Marathon once, the New York City Marathon twice and the Cleveland Marathon three times, he said. He and his brother, Brian, ran the 2018 Chicago Marathon together and raised money for the National MS Society then, too, he said.
But this may be the most unusual. Lamb said he has invited a few friends to run a few miles with him, and he let his neighborhood know he was going to be running most of the morning so that he might get some more company. He has a playlist with songs from artists ranging from The Beatles and The Killers to Lizzo.
“For four and a half hours, that’s a lot to listen to,” he said.
Lamb said his daughter and his mother, who have never missed one of his marathons, will be among a socially-distanced gathering at his home for when he finishes, which he hopes to be around 1 p.m.
Lamb said he hopes to get another chance to run the Boston Marathon in Boston.
“It would be pretty neat to run up to Heartbreak Hill,” he said. “I’d love to do it again for the MS Society. If I can get half the donations I got this time, I’d be so extremely thankful to be able to do that.”