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Local runner hopes to raise 100K for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

Mike Davis closes his team meeting with a motivational sign. Photo: April Pokorny

Mike Davis of Aquebogue got into a fight. Again.

The first time he fought for someone else he didn’t even know, and like a schoolyard hero he stepped up to help out a little girl being bullied by a bigger, stronger opponent. And though he put a significant dent in the bully he faced, the tormentor was not deterred and continued to pick on others – very often young kids. Whenever he could – and it’s been many times over the past seven years, Davis took a swing at the tough guys who pushed them around and picked on them.

Davis’s opponents are leukemia and lymphoma – cancers of the blood. And he hates the diseases with a passion because they often go after kids. And there is no cure.

Yet.

Each of the times that Davis has fought for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, he’s done it under their umbrella of Team in Training – a framework that the LLS has developed to help fundraisers participate in races ranging in length from 5K to a marathon. Seventy-five cents of every dollar raised goes directly to support the fight against the diseases, according to Jen Taggart of the LLS.

He knew nothing about the disease or TNT before his sister secretly signed him up for a half-marathon in Lake Placid, New York in 2010. Davis was horrified – the first time he’d ever run was on a dare that he couldn’t run a mile. He took the dare, managed the mile, and fell down after the finish line swearing he’d never run again. But among many of his traits, one of his strongest is determination. He decided to train to run a 10K. And now, thanks to his sister, he faced a half-marathon.

What he didn’t count on was the Team in Training help. TNT set him up with a trained coach who helped him reach his goal. But TNT inspired him to want to do more and go further. So he started training for marathons and began doing yearly Disney Marathon weekends. The weekends offer 5Ks on Thursday, 10Ks on Friday, half marathons on Saturday and marathons on Sunday. Some runners complete combinations like the Goofy challenge which is a half on Saturday and a full on Sunday. Others do the Dopey challenge – all four races.

At Disney in 2015, he ran a marathon as part of Team Happily Ever After, a team raising funds for a young girl he didn’t know who was fighting for her life. He personally raised $6,000 through sponsors during that race, which went to Team Happily Ever After. In all, the team raised $189,000 dollars for LLS.

He vowed it would be his last marathon because he wanted “to spread his wings a bit and train for triathlons – not just run all the time.”

But now, Davis has registered for Disney again, and this time he’s going for a knockout punch.

Because this time it’s personal.

Two and a half weeks after the Team Happily Ever After experience, Davis’ godfather Dave King was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. King was well-known and well-respected in the Springs community. He was a former chief of the Springs Fire Department and had served as a commissioner as well. Davis saw his godfather struggle through chemotherapy and his fight so inspired Davis he felt like he needed to “get off his butt and fight, too.”

Now he’s upped his game with TNT. He’s wearing four hats for them – he’s certified as a coach, has become a team leader, serves as the liaison between LLS and the whole East End and he’s running in yet another marathon weekend. All besides holding a full-time job, volunteering with his son’s Cub Scout den, and participating in other altruistic activities (see prior story here).

This year Davis is raising and coaching a team of his own to run at Disney. He held an informational meeting on March 30. His goal is to bring at least 25 runners with him to Disney next January and raise a minimum of $100,000 through Team DMK for a Cure.

If a TNT team raises at least $100,000, the team gets to put together a portfolio of the funds. The team can decide how and where LLS spends the money. It’s Davis’ goal that the money gets spent on researching for a cure for the type of leukemia that took his godfather’s life.

About a dozen and a half people attended the meeting, lots of them wearing purple, the official color of the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society. Some were clearly runners and some, not so much. Davis told his story to the group and introduced Jen Taggart of the LLS who helps set up and co-ordinate efforts like Davis’ new goal. Between the two of them – and their inspirational message that “everyone can do it – it’s just a matter of training” – more than half the people in the room committed to running for Team DMK for a Cure before the meeting was over.

The race courses take you through all of the theme parks at Disney – you run through the castle, and “stop and have your picture taken, of course,” says Davis. Disney characters and family members line the race course cheering runners on. At the beginning of each race, runners hear a lot of “welcome to the ‘happiest place on earth’” from spectators, which is encouraging, said Davis. “But when you’re at mile 25 and someone yells that out, you want to go punch them but you don’t have the energy to do it,” he said to a roomful of laughter.

He’s since completed six marathons for LLS “and more half marathons than I can count,” he says. When people are impressed that he runs marathons and declare they could never do that, Davis tells them that that he’s “completed six marathons, because, after all, I don’t run the whole way, ever. I walk part of the time when I need to.”

Mike Davis helps train a friend for her longest run yet. Courtesy photo: Mike Davis

One of the women at the informational meeting concurred, saying she speed walks every 10K she does. Another gave this advice, “I look at a race as 5K out and 5K back – somehow that makes it easier.”

He’s now got a team of about a dozen runners who will travel with him to Disney for its marathon weekend January 4 through 7, but he’s hoping to inspire more people to join Team DMK for a Cure.

Peggy Miller of Springs asked how she could contribute without running or walking as she has a medical condition making it impossible for her to do a race. She wanted to help because “Dave was my chief – and he was a really good chief. He was all about training. He would have supported this effort. He respected everyone for trying and I respect Mike for that.”

To join the team or to contribute, you can contact Davis by emailing him, visiting the team’s TNT page, or leaving a message on his Facebook page.

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April Pokorny
April is a writer, reporter and copy editor for the LOCAL news websites. She is a retired educator and proud grandma. April lives in Calverton. Email April