Running for Dad

Living Well Magazine Winter 2014

Alex Marschall, our Everyday Hero, spoke with Stephanie Kemp, fundraising manager at The Gawler Foundation.

They’d never run a marathon before, but powered by the support of friends and family, and in honour of their dad David, Alex Marschall and his younger brother Scott finished first and second in their age group in the Barossa Marathon Running Festival on 25 May 2014, coincidentally the day their Dad would have turned 55.

Their father had always enjoyed and encouraged fitness challenges, with the whole family (Mum and Dad, four sons and two daughters) doing Tae Kwon Do and getting their black belts together. David also took up mauy thai kickboxing and won the television series ‘Wipeout’. He was always very physically fit and healthy and encouraged his children to be the same. “He was the type of person that would set himself a target and just do it no matter what,” says Alex.

In May 2011 David was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma brain tumour (the most aggressive form). From his initial diagnosis he was given 12-18 months with treatment. Through a combination of traditional methods (3 surgeries, chemo & radiotherapy), alternative/natural therapies, and supportive friends and family, he survived 33 months before passing on peacefully on 3rd March, 2014.

After his passing, Alex and Scott (2nd and 3rd sons) started long distance running as a way to relax and decided to use the effort to work towards completing a goal.

“Dad had mentioned, before he was diagnosed, that one of his next fitness goals was to complete a marathon. After some searching we found that the Barossa Marathon was coming up soon. This seemed fitting as the event was held on Dad’s birthday (25th May) and Dad had always been so proud of being a 4th generation Barossa Valley descendent.” With the aim of completing the marathon in memory of their dad, Alex and Scott thought they would try to raise some money for a charity that helps people living with cancer. Lucky for us, they chose The Gawler Foundation.

“My mother and father attended the Life & Living Cancer Retreat run by The Gawler Foundation for people with cancer in October 2011 and learned invaluable lessons which allowed them to best deal with their situation, contributing to both prolongation and improved quality  of his life.”

After making contact with us, Alex set up his profile on fundraising website Everyday Hero, where The Gawler Foundation have a profile. This enabled him to write about what they were doing and why, share the link with friends and family, and to easily receive online donations to the cause. Friends were also able to write messages of encouragement. “It is very easy to use; everyone found it easy”, says Alex.

What neither Alex, nor us here at The Gawler Foundation expected, was the amount they raised. But then this matched their amazing achievement in the 42.2km long marathon itself.

“We finished a lot faster than we thought we would; this was our first marathon, so we didn’t really know what to expect, sort of based it on an average time for a marathon which is 4.5 hours and then cut it down to 4 hours and said we’d aim for that. I ended up doing it in 3 hours 32mins and Scott was only five minutes later; we actually finished first and second in our age group (20 – 24 years). Pretty impressive in the end really!” Alex laughed.

“We did better in both respects – better in the race and better in the fundraising, (we raised) almost $6500 – wasn’t expecting that!”

“The marathon was the perfect way to honour Dad.”

Alex and Scott’s family and friends found a point on the track where they got to see them six times to cheer them on. Some of them even made big banners saying ‘honouring David Marschall.’

“Although it was very physical and full-on, you’re not exerting yourself as you would for a sprinting type situation, so it did give us a lot of time to reflect emotionally on what we’ve been through the past few years, the good times we’ve had together. It definitely made me try harder, knowing what I was doing it for and having my friends & family supporting me for that cause.”

When David was originally diagnosed, he had to make some pretty critical changes and he found it very hard. Alex describes, “As well as the traditional treatments, chemo & radio, he also explored natural therapies and he went completely vegan. I guess his mentality before that, as it is with a lot of men, was to eat a lot of meat, exercise a lot. Illness really restricted him – there were certain exercises he couldn’t do anymore. But then he really embraced it and became a vegan and health ambassador to all of his friends and family.

He was always really passionate about his gardening, which was something my oldest brother and I were also passionate about – organic gardening. Once he was diagnosed we planted a bigger garden down  the back. He enjoyed helping us in the garden even when he wasn’t quite as mobile.” While the activities they shared in changed, the strong bond remained the same.

Says Alex about the journey of illness; “there is a point when someone (or organisation) offers some kindness or support that really helps at that point in time.” For their family, it was The Gawler Foundation.

Alex’s advice to others considering how to support us is; “if they believe that someone else in a similar situation would benefit from the same support, then it is a cause worth fundraising for. In terms of the activity, I think they should really think about something that they have shared with the loved one in question in the past. Something that they both enjoyed doing, and something that they know their loved one would be proud of.”

There’s no doubt in our minds that Alex & Scott’s Dad would be not only proud of their achievement, but their compassion and generosity in the process.

Check out www.everydayhero.com You too can be a hero!