Running the Boston Marathon is the pinnacle of many a runner's career. Some runners spend years chasing down competitive qualifying times to get entry into this Holy Grail of running events.
Laurence Grogin is not only running the Boston Marathon on April 21, he is running to the start line in Hopkinton, Mass., from his home in Franklin Lakes for a total distance of 250 miles in eight days. He is taking on that challenge to raise funds for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, started by Paul Newman in 1988 to give kids with serious medical conditions a place to just be kids and "raise a little hell."
"I'm so lucky to be able to do this," Grogin, 59, says. "The camp is so important to these kids, who deserve a better break in life."
Grogin got involved with kids who suffer from illness when he was living in Los Angeles in the 1980s and served on the staff at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. He started doing triathlons and got hooked on the sport. At the same time, he learned about the mission of the Ronald McDonald House Charity, to provide shelter for kids and their families who were getting treated for cancer.
In Los Angeles, Ronald McDonald House was partnered with Children's Hospital. Grogin approached both organizations with the idea of putting on a children's triathlon for the kids in treatment. After he got approval, he raised money to purchase bikes for the kids by running the Los Angeles Marathon. He then volunteered as an activity specialist for the kids at Ronald McDonald House, using his chiropractic and stretching skills to help ease their pain.
"I wanted to give these kids a feeling of empowerment and accomplishment," Grogin says. "I can't undo their cancer, but I can make them feel special and alive for a few hours and not be defined by their illness."
Nothing in his background growing up in Paramus would indicate that Grogin would become a finisher of 28 Ironman triathlons (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle ride, 26.2-mile run) and take on this endurance run. He was a self-described "routine athlete" at Paramus High School. After college at the University of Florida, he attended New York Chiropractic College and established a private practice in Los Angeles. In 1993, he moved back to New Jersey. He is a board-certified chiropractor, an acupuncturist and a specialist in Chinese herbal medicine.
After moving back to the East Coast, Grogin missed his interaction with the kids.
"It was so inspiring to be around these kids who are so loving," he says.
He reached out to Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, located in Ashford, Conn., and a beautiful relationship ensued. In the past two years, he has raised a total of $50,000 for the camps. For his April challenge, he is raising the bar to $1 million. His fundraising campaign, dubbed Just a Buck, is taking hold throughout the local area. He's placing bets that no one will say no to donating $1. In December, he held a 48-hour swim-a-thon at the lap pool in his house, which doubles as his office, and raised $9,000.
"So far," he says, "no one has said no."
To train, he is running 200 miles a week and cross-training with swimming, cycling and weight strengthening. The biggest challenge will be to stay injury free. His chiropractic background will help with that.
"Maybe I'm kidding myself, but I don't think this is rocket science," he says. "This is nothing compared to what these kids go through with their chemotherapy, radiation and compromised life."
He takes his mission seriously, as he knows that every dollar he receives will help a child enjoy the freedom of participating at the Hole in the Wall camp and, for a few days, transform into a normal kid again.
Anyone who knows Grogin knows that he is a spiritual man. His patients, many of whom local runners and triathletes, attest to the fact that he not only cures their gluteus maximus and sore IT bands, he digs deeper to unravel the reasons behind their injuries. Ridgewood resident Dominique Hamel, an ultra-marathoner who is a patient, says Grogin is "better than a shrink."
Franklin Lakes resident and Hawaiian Ironman age-division winner Mike Llerandi says Grogin doesn't just work on his muscles, soft tissue and trigger points to keep him competitive. Grogin gives him guided introspection.
"He's been super helpful to me on many levels," Llerandi says. "He truly cares about his patient's total well-being."
Ask Grogin about the kids he fundraises for and be ready for an outpouring of emotion.
"I get so much from these kids," he says. "They add meaning to my life."
He finds that working with them adds vitality to his day.
On Sunday, April 13, Grogin will leave from the Franklin Lakes Municipal Court on DeKorte Drive at 9 a.m. and start his 224-mile run to Hopkinton. He's hoping his patients, friends, well-wishers and anyone who wants to give a buck for kids will turn out for a spirited sendoff. His route will take him to Stamford, Conn., across to Hartford and up through Massachusetts. Along the way he will stop at hospitals and schools to tell his tale and hopefully collect a few bucks. He plans to cover 32 miles a day and arrive at the start line of the marathon on Saturday, April 19. A crew of volunteers will follow him in a van and they'll spend the nights at hotels or with friends. He'll take Sunday as a rest day and run the marathon, 26.2 miles, on Monday.
Grogin isn't worried about his journey.
"Thinking about the kids will get me through this," he says. "It will be magical, gratifying, and it feels like the right thing to do."
Grogin has always felt that one person can make a difference in the lives of others, and he is running 250 miles to prove that point.
To help Grogin raise funds for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, please visit crowdrise.com/larrygrogin.