US-based three-time Olympian Lee Troop will come out of retirement when he returns to Australia to race the Gold Coast Airport Marathon in honour of his dad Joe who recently overcame brain cancer.
Troop, who ended his elite career in 2014, will run alongside Joe in the Southern Cross University 10km Run on Saturday 1 July before returning to the scene of his 2006 victory in the marathon the next day.
It was Joe’s fitness regime in the 1980s which initially drew Lee to running, the pair regularly striding out together in regional Victoria.
“He was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer in 2015. He hadn’t run for 20 years but when he was diagnosed he decided to get back into running,” he said.
“He ran every day, even during his chemotherapy, and the days leading up to his brain surgery. He wanted to stay positive and running was a way for him to deal with the treatment.
“His diagnosis made me realise that I shouldn’t take life for granted. So, running on the Gold Coast is a wonderful way to celebrate life and his recovery.”
Joe, 65, said running during treatment has not only kept his mind off his illness but it has also provided him with the level of fitness required to run the Southern Cross University 10km Run alongside his son.
“Running has been an ongoing process as my body changed because of the treatment I was receiving,” he said.
“I was told that I wouldn’t be able to keep up my level of running, but I knew I needed to do everything in my power to aid my recovery and I believe it was running that helped me recover so well.
“I have been given a second chance at life and as I don’t get to see Lee and his beautiful family from one year to the next, this is going to be a very special day for all of us.”
Lee said he is excited to share the experience with not only Joe but with the rest of his family who will be participating on race weekend. Like Lee did with Joe many years ago, Lee’s children’s foray into running will be alongside their dad.
“My wife Freyja will participate in the ASICS Half Marathon, my daughter Macy will run in the Zespri 4km Junior Dash with her cousin Kiara, and I will run with my sons Max and Jack in the Zespri 2km Junior Dash,” he said.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity to get the kids to Australia and see their grandparents. They haven’t stopped telling their friends about how they’ll be racing in Australia.
“My kids were babies when I retired, so it’s going to be a unique experience to run with them and have them watch me race in the marathon.”
Lee admits that due to family responsibilities and work commitments at the Boulder Track Club, Troop Events Athlete Management and Fleet Feet Sports in Boulder, Colorado, his preparation hasn’t been ideal.
“I’m hoping for a 2:30 finish but it will probably be closer to 2:40 or 2:45. Either way, I’m still going to go out there and run as hard as I can,” he said.
“My body simply can’t handle the training anymore. If it’s not my calf, it’s my hamstring and if it’s not my hamstring, it’s my back.
“I’m doing everything I can to complete the distance. Since my training started, I’ve developed a greater appreciation for other marathoners who are very busy but still manage to train.”
With less than a month until Australia’s premier road race, Lee said it was a chance for people to experience an internationally recognised marathon.
“The organisation is second to none. The atmosphere is electric and the enthusiasm and excitement of participants adds to the euphoria of running,” he said.
“It’s also a wonderful opportunity to spend a weekend on the Gold Coast, especially if you’re living in a cold climate, all while improving your health and fitness.”
The 39th annual Gold Coast Airport Marathon will be held on Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 July.
Set to attract more than 27,000 participants of all ages and abilities, this year’s race program will feature the Gold Coast Airport Marathon over 42.195km, Wheelchair Marathon, ASICS Half Marathon, Wheelchair 15km, Southern Cross University 10km Run, The Star Gold Coast 5.7km Challenge, Zespri 4km Junior Dash and Zespri 2km Junior Dash.
For more information visit goldcoastmarathon.com.au.