Published by the DAILY RECORD of Morris County, New Jersey
On Sunday, July 26, 2015
In 2004 Doug Clark of Mendham placed second in the Verizon Classic 5K. His best times that year were 16:07 for a 5K and 34:02 for a 10K. At the Verizon race in 2011 he placed third overall. His name shows up in most of the Verizon races in the top runners list and never slower than 17:40.
Running is only part of the picture. In 2009 Clark won his age division of the Hawaii Ironman competition. He has been the age division triathlon athlete of the year seven years straight, including 2014. He is the ultimate Triathlon Bloke.
So why was Clark happy to finish the Verizon race this year in 3,384th place with a walking time of 48:50? Life can hand you a cruel deck of cards once in a while and Clark was handed his on November 4th of last year.
The vibrant, fit athlete suffered a grand mal seizure that was so severe it dislocated and broke his shoulder. The seizure and multiple seizures that day was a sudden symptom that something was dreadfully wrong in his brain. Clark was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. His world and that of his wife Hillary and eight year old daughter Ellie was thrown into a maelstrom of doctor visits, hospital stays, surgeries, recuperations, setbacks, and triumphs.
Clark credits his physical therapists and the Livestrong program at the Somerset YMCA with help with his progress in physical recovery. However a side effect of the medications that he is taking often leaves him severely fatigued.
While the Clarks have medical insurance through Clark’s employer Alcatel Lucent, not all things are covered and all of the ancillary expenses have been hard on the family.
Enter John Williams of Modern Athlete, a running specialty store in Florham Park who reasoned that the running community would like to help the Clarks out a bit and he would organize a fund raising 5K.
“John has been remarkably generous with his time,” said Doug Clark. He knows how time consuming putting on a race can be. Hillary Clark was on the committee that puts on the Harvest Hustle in Mendham in September and she was the race director for the Giralda Farms races in November of last year.
Since Clark goes by the nick name of Triathlon Bloke, Williams named the 5K race that will be run this Saturday, August 1st, the Team Bloke 5K for Brain Cancer Awareness.
In addition to helping the Clarks with their out-of-pocket expenses the race will donate to the Stomp the Monster organization that assists families that are coping with cancer. The Mendham Ambulance squad will receive a donation in appreciation for their prompt response to Clark’s emergency when the seizures hit.
Friends who have kept up with Clark’s setbacks and progress have been amazed at his up-beat attitude. Both Hillary and Doug have posted to a medical sharing website and Doug’s posts will leave them chuckling at his humor as he battles the disease.
“He is inspiring so many people around us,” said Hillary Clark, “and he doesn’t think he is doing anything inspirational like racing. “But the fact that he is getting up every day and his attitude is incredible. He’s so positive. One of the things that is motivating is he wants to be a survivor so that he can help other people.”
“I think that speaks a lot about who he is,” she said. “He really is the most humble person I’ve ever met. His positivity is inspiring – for all of us. Nobody wants to go through something like this. It has been devastating for our daughter but what he is teaching her through his example - you have to stay positive and live. She’s learning a lot.”
Doug Clark, who is 46, says that quite obviously his most specific goal is to survive the cancer. Then achieve some of the success that he had in triathlons in the future. He’d like to be the age division national champion once again.
“I don’t think that is unrealistic and that is my goal,” he said. “So hopefully to inspire other people who perhaps have the condition that I have now.”
Clark gets his own inspiration from professional triathlon athletes who have come back from cancer. “I want to be able to inspire people by doing the same.”
As Hillary Clark said, Doug Clark is already inspiring others. The race on Saturday will bring those who have been inspired by him to a race that is not just another 5K. This is a race to help one of their own.
A calendar of USATF sanctioned events can be found at www.usatfnj.org or at www.raceforum.com for running and tri and biathlon events.
Contact Madeline Bost at email@example.com.