The passion that Ernie Lewis has for running is surpassed only by his commitment to cancer awareness.
To raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Mr. Lewis hit the trails Sunday at Oak Openings Preserve Metropark and ran what he called the Double O/Double Marathon.
It was a double marathon, which equated to Mr. Lewis running a 5.25-mile loop about 10 times in the western Lucas County park for a total of more than 52 miles.
"This is an inexpensive way to run for a charity close to home and have people come out and run with me," Mr. Lewis, 45, said.
Before hitting the trail at sunrise, he had secured more than $5,000 in pledges.
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He hoped to complete the grueling task before sundown, but finished about 6:30 p.m.
Mr. Lewis of West Toledo said he has raised nearly $25,000 since 2006 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through Team in Training, a charity sports program and major annual fund-raising campaign for the society.
The nonprofit Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is the world's largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research and providing education and patient services.
Mr. Lewis, who is employed as an executive coach and business consultant, was into his sixth lap on the loop near Mallard Lake in the preserve and well into his second marathon Sunday when he was interviewed for this story.
He admitted to being behind in his training and hampered by a nagging leg injury.
Among Mr. Lewis' running partners at Oak Openings was Frank Cody, an avid runner who planned to cover the trail loop with his friend several times.
"Ernie's dedication to running and his commitment to fund-raising is inspiring to all of us. I and others are out here to support him," Mr. Cody said.
He has a personal interest in finding a cure for the blood cancer. Mr. Cody's son, Rick, died of leukemia in 1998 at age 23.
"It is a very unforgiving disease. I will do anything that I can do to support finding a cure for it and help anyone who is working to help that cause," said Mr. Cody, a Monclova Township resident.
Mr. Lewis began running about eight years ago. He admitted to being out of shape and overweight when he agreed to train for his first marathon. He ran it with his brother, an avid runner.
They both finished the Marine Corps Marathon, which winds through Washington.
Mr. Lewis was hooked.
"I caught the bug," he said. "Along the way I lost 60 pounds. It really has changed my life."
Since 2002, he has competed in 28 marathons, including many as a Team in Training coach, working with novice runners, helping them to train and complete the event.
He has run the Boston Marathon as well marathons in Akron, Dayton, Columbus, Jacksonville, Fla., and Toledo's Glass City Marathon.
Mr. Lewis, who averages about five marathons yearly, completed the Oil Creek 100 Ultra Marathon in October, 2009.
He took on the challenge, which covered 100 miles of unpaved terrain in northwest Pennsylvania, to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
The idea for Sunday's double marathon was inspired from competing in the ultra marathon.
He picked Oak Openings because he wanted people to come out and run with him with the theme of battling leukemia and lymphoma together. "It's a way to have something close to home and have people come out and run with me," he said.
More information about Mr. Lewis' fund-raising efforts is at ernestlewis.wordpress.com.
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