If you see a man running Monday’s 122nd Boston Marathon backwards, don’t worry. That’s just Loren Zitomersky, 33, tackling the 26.2-mile course the “wrong” way for the right reason: To end epilepsy.
The Disney movie production lawyer from Southern California won’t mimic salmon, running “upstream” from the finish line to the start line. He’ll run with the rest of the pact from start to finish, but let his heels lead the way (and have a spotter nearby so he doesn’t collide with other runners).
When Zitomersky, who has completed an Ironman and several marathons, ran a 2017 marathon fast enough (3:00:14) to qualify for the 2018 Boston Marathon, he immediately knew he wanted to do something special to raise money and awareness for the Epilepsy Foundation.
That’s because his older brother, Brian, died of epilepsy while sleeping seven years before he was born. Even though Zitomersky never met his brother, he still felt a connection, especially as he and his father tested their legs and lungs in Brian’s honor.
“In Brian’s memory and to better the lives of people living with epilepsy, my dad and I have been raising money and awareness for the Epilepsy Foundation and individuals and families affected by epilepsy through long-distance bicycle rides, triathlons and marathons (20 in total so far!),” he wrote on his website, BostonBackwards.com. “We completed our first bicycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles (529 miles) in 1997 and our longest ride from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. (2,903 miles) in 2006.”
#FlashbackFriday to March 18th when I ran the last 20.42 miles of the LA Marathon backwards.
In 10 days I’m running all 26.2 miles of the #BostonMarathon backwards in memory of my brother Brian. https://t.co/5kexsdZQDh #EndEpilepsy #backwardsguy #lamarathon #Epilepsy #Charity pic.twitter.com/deowa109RG
— Backwards Guy (@bostonbackwards) April 6, 2018
So, come Monday, Zitomersky will be aiming to break the world record for the fastest marathon run backwards. To do that, he’ll have to average 8:30 min/mile, reaching the finish line faster than 3:43:39.
During his training, he’s logged more than 650 backwards miles and withstood run-ins with trees and an achy neck, and he’s still not sure how it will all pan out on Monday. But, he’ll give it his absolute all.
The pain and the struggle that I’m feeling when I’m running backwards is temporary,” he told ABC 7. “For them, they live with this struggle and the difficulties every single day.”
His goal is to raise at least $100,000 for the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Los Angeles in order to support families affected by the disease and find a cure to end it. At the time of this writing, he’s raised $65,131. If you’d like to make a donation, you can do so here.
Along with taking on this great challenge, Zitomersky has also issued one of his own: The 26 Steps Backwards to End Epilepsy Challenge. One in 26 people will be diagnosed with some form of epilepsy. That’s why he’s asking folks to film themselves taking 26 steps backwards and then donate $26 to the Epilepsy Foundation.
“Post your video on social media with #26steps and #EndEpilepsy and challenge at least three people to do the same,” he encourages.
Just two days before the Boston Marathon, Zitomersky spoke at the National Walk for Epilepsy in Washington D.C.
“I hope I can bring epilepsy out of the darkness and into the light,” he said. “I hope that epilepsy will no longer carry a stigma. I hope people feel more comfortable openly talking about their epilepsy…I hope that we can end epilepsy once and for all.”
He may be running from Hopkinton to Boylston Street backward, but there’s no doubt that hope is the thing carrying him forward.