October 1, 2010


City man running for fitness, cancer cure

Joe Lyman will compete in marathon Sunday to raise money for cancer research

RunningBob Ellis/staff photographer
Joe Lyman trains for a marathon where he will raise money for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Staff Reporter

Joe Lyman took up running five years ago for fitness and relaxation, never thinking he would use it to raise money for cancer research.
The Cortland resident turned to running after trying it and running about every other day, then every day. He runs at lunchtime with a group of men at Cornell University — eight to 10 miles, including the 1 1/2 miles up the hill from downtown and then back.
“I get to decompress between my morning and afternoon sessions,” said Lyman, 37, a family therapist for Tompkins County Mental Health.
Lyman will add to his running resume Sunday when he competes in his first marathon, the Wineglass Marathon in Steuben County, using the 26.2-mile race to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Western and Central New York chapter.
Lyman has extra motivation: cancer has struck his wife, Amy, aunt Maryanne Lyman and father-in-law Dick Morris.
His original goal was $1,500 but he had $1,600 in pledges as of Tuesday.
The marathon, which stretches between Bath and Corning, is one of several in the nation used by runners to raise money for curing leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, myeloma and other blood cancers.
“I can do this and it seemed like a good way to contribute,” said Lyman, a city Board of Education member and Boy Scout Troop 94 volunteer. “It’s important to do things for your community. That’s partly from my being a social worker, partly from my nature.”
A Homer High School and SUNY Cortland graduate, Lyman used basketball as his main way to stay in shape after college. He was a social worker for Cortland County, then Family Counseling Services before taking the Ithaca job, and he needed a way to unwind from other people’s problems.
“My co-workers were running so I tried it,” he said. “I thought my fitness level was high, but when I tried running, my legs were dead and my lungs were burning.”
He gradually improved, joining the Cornell group, which meets outside Teagle Hall and calls itself the High Noon Athletic Club. On weekends, he uses the track at SUNY Cortland’s former Davis Field or the city’s streets for his regimen.
He has run several half-marathons, and in April he decided to try his first full marathon, signing up for the Wineglass. Then he learned that the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society lists the event as one of several marathons that it uses to raise money, through its Team in Training program, also called TNT.
The Wineglass Marathon attracts about 1,800 runners because it is considered an excellent qualifier for the prestigious Boston Marathon, said Harland Bigelow, a SUNY Cortland employee who trains runners for TNT and trained Lyman.
“This is Joe’s first marathon so he doesn’t want to put a time on it, but he could think about qualifying for Boston,” said Bigelow, a runner for 29 years who was recruited by former Red Dragons track coach Jack Daniels to train people for TNT. “For his age group, a qualifying time would be about three hours, 15 minutes. Joe has been one of the easier people to coach and he’s committed to the cause.”
After signing up for the marathon, Lyman learned in May that his aunt had leukemia, after going into remission 20 years ago. He said she is doing well.
His wife, Amy, had beaten ovarian cancer twice during high school, when she was 14 and 17. Her husband says there have been “a couple of scares since then.”
Amy’s doctors said she would never have children, and the couple thought about adopting, but then they had Paul in 1999 and daughter Jackie three years later.
“The doctors were flabbergasted,” Joe Lyman said.
Morris, Amy’s father, was diagnosed with different forms of cancer in May 1997, the day before the couple was married. He was told he would live a year but lived for five years.“I desperately want a cure and don’t want anything to happen to my family,” he said.
The cancer society expects to raise $50,000 from the event, Lyman said.
Lyman’s fundraising link is


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