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Runner sets pace against cancer
Event is Saturday
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Forsyth County News

At a glance

* The FAST PACE Race is set for 8 a.m. Saturday at the Cumming Fairgrounds. To register or for more details, visit

* Also, Bill Rodgers will be signing books from 4 to 7:30 p.m. Friday at Totally Running at The Avenue Forsyth on Peachtree Parkway.

Not much can slow down Bill Rodgers, but about three years ago, the running legend met his match.

“I was at the Barbados Marathon drinking rum and Cokes and I got a call from my doctor and he said, ‘Oh, you have cancer.’ I said, ‘Oh gee. Oh great. What the hell does that mean,’ you know?” Rodgers recalled.

What it meant was that Rodgers had become one of the nearly one-sixth of American men who will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lives.

Surgery followed, and then after a recurrence a year ago, Rodgers underwent seven weeks of radiation treatment.

This week, Rodgers is lending his celebrity to Cumming’s FAST PACE Race, part of a 15-race national series designed to raise awareness of prostate cancer.

The event, which is Saturday morning at the Cumming Fairgrounds, features a 5K and 10K.

Local race director Devin Forsyth said Georgia Urology will offer free blood tests and prostate exams during the race.

Rodgers’ running accomplishments make him an immortal in the world of distance racing. He won the Boston and New York marathons four times each between 1975-80.

He twice broke the course record in Boston, with his fastest marathon finish coming in the 1979 race. His 2:09:27 finish comes out to a blistering 4:56 mile pace sustained over 26.2 miles.

Along with his own brush with the disease, Rodgers has plenty of personal experience with cancer. His girlfriend has recovered from breast cancer, while the same disease claimed a relative’s life. His grandfather died of melanoma.

Rodgers has made it a point to contribute to awareness and funding for breast, prostate and skin cancer, but he thinks that it’s prostate cancer that really needs a higher public profile.

“Breast cancer [awareness] has a big head start and they’ve done a great job,” he said. “Hopefully [bringing attention to] other cancers like this ... can follow in their footsteps. I don’t know if that will happen, but I know we’ve got to try.”

The American Cancer Society estimates that 32,050 American men will die of prostate cancer this year. Rodgers said there’s no need for that many deaths, since the disease can be detected so easily. Most early cases can be caught with a simple blood test.

Laura Lantzy, national director of the Pace Race series, said she thinks a culture of “manly” silence — as well as avoiding medical checkups — may be to blame for the disease’s high fatality rates.

“I just feel like men don’t talk about it,” she said. “Women, we like to maintain [our health], so we’re constantly on top of it ... If you compare it to breast cancer, [those patients] like to share, cry and laugh. And men, they’re not as open about something that’s so vulnerable to them.”

Rodgers said it doesn’t have to be that way. He noted how male athletes regard it as macho to stay on top of potential injuries that could impact their performance. He said men should take the same preventative approach to their own health.

“I believe everyone should be an athlete. ... It’s just a good way to live. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to get hit by a bullet, like I got hit and tons of people have, but you can fight it and you can do well with it,” he said.