Clanton man running for a reason

Published 11:59 pm Saturday, November 15, 2008

You might see him running down a Clanton street on any given day. He has become recognizable just because he does it so much.

But Phillip Deason does not run to be seen, nor does he do it just to stay in shape. Well, that is one positive side effect, but there’s more to why this man puts on his running shoes and gear.

Deason is training to run in St. Jude’s Memphis Marathon on Dec. 6 in support of a 7-year-old boy with cancer.

Evan Thomason, the son of a coworker, was 5 when he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma — the most common extracranial solid cancer in childhood and the most common cancer in infancy. It usually starts in the automatic nervous system or adrenal gland and spreads quickly.

Evan has stage four, high-risk neuroblastoma. Stage four indicates the cancer has progressed as far as it can progress, and high-risk is as bad as stage four gets.

The marathon is an annual fundraiser for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, which does not turn away families who cannot pay.

“There’s a lot of expense these families go through for treatment,” Deason said. “The money raised from this marathon provides for treatment regardless of a family’s ability to pay and in some cases housing for families to stay in.”

When Deason started training in August, however, he was planning to run in the Mercedes Marathon in Birmingham next February in honor of a friend with cancer. About two weeks into training, he received an e-mail asking him to consider joining Team Evan.

Around the same time, the 2-year old grandchild of a fellow church member was diagnosed with leukemia.

“I decided to do the St. Jude’s marathon because it allowed me to run in honor of my friend and raise money for pediatric cancer treatment at St. Jude’s,” he said.

Because St. Jude’s marathon is about six weeks earlier, Deason had to speed up his training cycle. He runs for four days a week including a long run every Saturday. The midweek runs add up to 18 miles, and the Saturday runs build up to 20 miles before tapering down.

“I like to run, but I like to run for 30-40 minutes and get it over with,” Deason admits. “After about an hour and a half, you just don’t pay attention to time anymore.”

Even though his maximum training run of 20 miles is less than the 26.2 he will have to run in the marathon, he is confident.

“If you can run 20 miles, you can run 26.2 miles,” he explains. “You really just have to overcome the urge to stop.”

Running a full marathon will be a first for Deason, although he did run a half marathon at Mercedes in January. In the marathon, he will burn about 3,500 calories, take about 45,000 steps and run for four and a half hours.

“He goes through tennis shoes like crazy,” his wife, Tina, says. “Proper training is essential and he has truly taken it seriously. I am so proud of him.”

Team Evan consists of 24 runners from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Ala-bama. They will be among 11,000 mara-thon participants.

Deason, 43 and father of two, says he is running with his kids in mind.

“I want my kids to understand you can do anything if you want to do it badly enough,” he says.

He also asks others to consider participating in this type of fundraiser.

You hear people say all the time, ‘I wish I could do something.’ You can,” Deason says. “One day there will be another family who may not be so fortunate to have good health insurance, yet their child needs treatment anyway. By giving to the St. Jude’s Heroes program, you will have done something. Raising this money might or might not cure this little boy, but if it’s given in love it is never wasted.”

Anyone interested in making a contribution should call Deason at 755-5126.