Don Wright received his cancer diagnosis the same month as his first marathon medal.

At the time, Wright was 62. Patients with myeloma, a blood cancer that affects cells in the bone marrow, could expect an average of another five years of life.

For Wright, that was eight years and 54 more marathons ago.

He plans to go after No. 56 Sunday morning at the Maine Marathon and Half Marathon, which starts and finishes near Back Cove in Portland.

“I’ve been given extra years of life,” Wright said Thursday while on his way east from his home in Minnesota. “I feel like I need to do the best I can with them, to make it an active and enjoyable life.”

Wright, 70, will be one of approximately 3,500 runners heading north on Route 1 Sunday morning in the 20th edition of the event. About 2,300 will turn around on Route 88 in Falmouth and head back to Portland to complete a half marathon. About 1,200 will continue through Cumberland Foreside to Yarmouth before looping back to Back Cove.

The main beneficiary from this year’s event is Camp To Belong Maine, an organization that brings together siblings separated by foster care or other out-of-home care.

A host of other charities use the Maine Marathon to raise money, most notably the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training Program.

Since 1997, participants in the Maine Marathon, Half Marathon and Relay have raised more than $2.6 million.

Wright is running for Team Continuum, a nonprofit dedicated to helping cancer patients and their families with immediate, vital, nonmedical financial assistance. His campaign is called E-Race Cancer and for every “like” on his campaign’s Facebook page, sponsors will donate $5 to Team Continuum.

A mostly retired computer consultant and lawyer whose treatment consists of a daily pill that doesn’t cure his myeloma but helps keep it in remission, Wright tries to eat only organic food.

His wife Ardis and daughter Sarah will accompany him to Maine. Both plan to run the half marathon.

Wright hadn’t run regularly since high school before taking it up again after turning 60.

“I just wanted to lose weight and be healthy and strong,” he said. “Then when I got into it, I found that I really enjoyed it.”

He built up to marathon distance with the goal of qualifying for Boston. It didn’t happen that first marathon, but he qualified later the same year and ran the 2004 Boston Marathon.

His best time was 3 hours, 36 minutes at the 2006 Twin Cities Marathon when he was 65. As the marathons piled up, he started thinking about joining the 50 states club. That, and a conversation at a hematology conference last winter, led to the fundraising campaign.

Two weeks ago at a marathon in Erie, Pa., Wright checked off his 37th state. Maine will be 38. His upcoming schedule includes Hartford, Conn. (Oct. 15), Washington, D.C. (Oct. 30) and the New York City Marathon (Nov. 6).

“I feel like I’m a very lucky beneficiary of recent research and development in cancer medications,” he said. “We certainly are spending a lot of time enjoying the life that we have. As you can tell, it’s a very active life.

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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