In his first event at marathon distance in more than 20 years, 58-year-old carpenter Michael Westphal accomplished much more than his goal of just crossing the finish line in Maine’s Great Run Marathon: He secured his place in the 2016 Boston Marathon and raised more than $33,000 (well above of his goal of $4,000) for the Michael J. Fox Foundation to support research of Parkinson’s disease, which he was diagnosed with in 2006.
With a time of 3:32:56, Westphal placed second overall in the race with a pace time of 8:05-minute miles, but he says it wasn’t a perfect race.
“My finish wasn’t pretty,” he wrote on his Team Fox racing page. “I believe my PD symptoms slowed me in the last six miles, and when my brain said ‘go,’ the message to my legs went AWOL. My form deteriorated badly… I actually fell down twice within 100 yards of the finish, but there was no way that I was going to stay on the ground! I got up and trotted to the finish to the cheers of my family, friends, and other runners and spectators. I think that put an exclamation mark on a very successful event.”
After a competitive running career in high school and college, he gave up the sport in 1994, but after his diagnosis he found that running curbed his symptoms and began to train again in hopes that he could finish the 26.2-mile distance. He entered the race in his hometown of Cranberry Island, Maine, as a way to accomplish his new personal goals and raise money for the Parkinson’s research. He plans to race in the Mount Desert Island Marathon in Bar Harbor, Maine, in October and to run in April at Boston.
Despite surpassing his goal by more than eight times, Westphal continues to raise money through his Team Fox campaign page in anticipation of his upcoming races.