DU Alumni

Alumnus celebrates 50th birthday with 50 marathons

David Knapp plans to finish his 52nd marathon of the year in November. Photo courtesy of David Knapp

David Knapp plans to finish his 52nd marathon of the year in November. Photo courtesy of David Knapp

For some people, a 50th birthday might involve some anxiety, a midlife crisis or maybe a fabulous vacation.

But David Knapp (PhD ’96) has other plans for his 50th, which falls on Oct. 16: his 46th marathon of the year.

The avid runner and Denver-based consultant has been celebrating the milestone since January with the goal of running 50 marathons throughout the year to raise money for the Colorado chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. He recently decided to tack on two more races, and he now plans to finish his 52nd marathon of the year in late November. Adding two extra marathons to his original goal was his way of honoring Alzheimer’s caregivers because, Knapp says, “they have to go the extra mile.”

Knapp’s late mother, Audrey Jean Knapp, who died from the disease in 2001, was his catalyst for the challenge.

“One of the reasons Alzheimer’s is such a ravaging disease is that before you physically lose your loved one, you mentally and spiritually lose them,” Knapp says. “For the last few years of her life, [my mother] didn’t know any of us; we helped take care of her. Watching that kind of long, slow deterioration … it really became a motivation to do something to stop this. And raising funds became a sort of natural progression and a great way to honor her.”

So far Knapp has raised $20,000 of his $50,000 goal — funds that will go to Alzheimer’s research and caregiving services for the Colorado Alzheimer’s Association.

Besides raising funds, he also is helping to raise awareness about the disease, while educating the public on its devastating effects.

“The statistics are alarming,” he says, noting that nearly 5 million people suffer from the disease. Researchers predict that number could nearly triple to 14 million by 2050.

“It’s not just an old-person disease — it can strike someone as young as in their 30s,” he says. “One thing that really drives me is that Alzheimer’s is 100 percent fatal right now. You may know a cancer survivor or a stroke survivor, or someone who has had a heart attack, but you don’t know an Alzheimer’s survivor because there aren’t any. That keeps me going when I’m having a tough day.”

Tough days have been common for Knapp this year. The sheer volume of miles run — as well as traveling all across the county for marathons every weekend, sometimes doubling up — has taken its toll.

“It’s definitely been challenging. It pushes me each time. The biggest challenge is the logistics — traveling, the hotels, the planning,” he explains. “But the biggest reward is meeting people. I wear a shirt that says what I’m doing, and people will come up to me and thank me. And then they’ll tell me about their stories and just how much this disease has affected them.”

Knapp’s final marathon will be Nov. 30 in Cocoa Beach, Fla., where his father — who was his mother’s primary caregiver — lives. Knapp says his father will meet him at the finish line.

To make a donation to Knapp’s campaign, visit his ALZ Stars page.


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