Photo courtesy of Annelise Schoups

Photo courtesy of Annelise Schoups


Lotatoa “Lota” Ward, 9, is used to going the distance.

He made headlines last year when he ran 33 miles of the 50-mile Antelope Island Buffalo Run shortly after being diagnosed with a brain tumor.

“Running helps me feel better and feel strong,” the Utah boy told us last spring. “It helps me deal with my tumor, and helps me get through tough times.”

Still running and fighting his battle with recurring brain tumors, Lota laced up his sneakers Saturday morning at the Salt Lake City Marathon. He was selected by Athlete IQ to serve as the Alaska Airlines ambassador for the annual spring race.

He’s running five miles of the race with Team Red White and Blue, but more importantly, he’s sharing his story with other athletes and their families.

Photo courtesy of Annelise Schoups

Photo courtesy of Annelise Schoups

“I’m excited to run as an Alaska Airlines ambassador because I want people to know that even when things are tough, we have to keep on fighting,” Lota said. “Even when we’re having a hard time, we need to try and help others and make them happy. I’ll be running for my Dad and my friend Todd Bates. My Dad is my running buddy and my biggest supporter. My friend Todd died from brain cancer.”

Lota has been fighting teratoma, or the growth of tumors made up of tissues such as muscle, bone, and hair. He has had more than four craniotomies, which have left him with some neurological deficits.

He and his family are awaiting the results of his most recent procedure, an MRI laser ablation. He’s scheduled to have another MRI on May 16, 2016, exactly one month after logging miles at the Salt Lake City Marathon.

The online community is encouraging athletes everywhere to support Lota in his next challenge by sharing their own personal journeys through the hashtag #RunLikeLota on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

For more ways to support Lota, visit his ​Facebook p​age, or donate to his G​iveforward c​ampaign.

Run, Lota, run.