2015 New York Marathon Diary: AKTIV against Cancer Luncheon, by Larry Eder


On Tuesday, October 27, I attended the first AKTIVagainstCancer Luncheon, honoring Mary Wittenberg, recently the CEO of the New York Road Runners and now, CEO of the Virgin Sports company.

AKTIVagainstCancer was founded by Hella Aanesen, with Grete Waitz. Now, with 12 sites in Norway and one in Ethiopia, AKTIV is supported by adidas and has the stated goal of providing assistance to cancer patient to develop exercise programs. AKTIV is supporting several research projects at Sloan Kettering's Cancer center (the Zuckerman Cancer Center) to determine if exercise assists cancer patients in battling their cancers.


AKTIVagainstCancer Luncheon: Jack Waitz- AKTIV Against Cancer, Mary Wittenberg- Global CEO of Virgin Sport, Michael Capiraso- Road Runners,Helle Aanesen- AKTIV Against Cancer, George Hirsch- Road Runners, photo courtesy of AKTIV and adidas.

In speaking with Jack Waitz, the husband of the late Grete Waitz, one could see the pride the man on how the legacy of the nine time New York City Marathon winner has grown and inspired.

"Grete had never run over 20k. We came to New York to visit the city, and while I thought Grete could do well in the marathon, I had no idea about her continued success. The marathon extended Grete's career by another dozen years." noted a smiling Jack Waitz.

The AKTIV mot kreft, or AKTIV against Cancer was founded by Helle Aanesen, a Norweigian running enthusiast fascinated with how American runners organized around charity running. This did not happen in Norway. Helle tried to get Grete's phone number through friends. " I found out later that Grete was listed in the telephone book." noted Helle. She reached out to Jack Waitz, hoping to reach Grete. While Jack returned Helle's inquiry quickly, it was not quick enough for Grete. " I knew Grete for about three and one half years. She taught me about making my time count."

AKTIV against Cancer's goal was to prove that exercise helped cancer patients not only endure their treatments, but helped them survive. AKTIV wanted to find a way to prove that. With the assistance of adidas and their other sponsors, AKTIV mot kreft developed twelve centers for cancer patients in Norway and one in Ethiopia.

The AKTIV against Cancer charity has now developed an organization in the US, AKTIV USA.

The luncheon on Tuesday, October 27, 2015 celebrated the leadership of Mary Wittenberg of the New York Road Runners and her support of Grete Waitz in championing womens' running.

Mary Wittenberg noted that Grete Waitz taught her to celebrate the moment, and support those who need support. The entire luncheon was quite emotional for me, with family members who have battled cancer. Seeing some of the sports leaders, from George Hirsch, the chairman of the New York Road Runners, Mike Capiraso, CEO of NYRR, and Adrian Leek, adidas global Running Director, working together to show the world that exercise was good for cancer patients was quite heartening.

adidas brought Haile Gebrselassie, Wilson Kipsang, Ajee' Wilson and Jenn Rhines as athletic ambassadors for AKTIV against cancer.

Haile Gebrselassie, who had rushed, with his wife, from the airport as the plane was quite late from Ethiopia, said it best: " AKTIV against Cancer is important. In my country, we have little to help people with cancer. I lost a sister to cancer. I thank adidas and AKTIV to help us build centers to fight cancer in my country."

AKTIV against Cancer is funding new research at Sloan Kettering on how exercise impacts cancer. Dr. Lee Jones has been developing research projects, using fish and mice, to show how exercise can affect various cancers. Sloat Kettering, adidas and AKTIV desire to develop a center to show cancer patients how to use exercise in their fights against Cancer.

A great start for AKTIV USA, and a fitting legacy for Helle Aanesen and Grete Waitz's foundation, AKTIV mon kreft. A wonderful idea continues to live and thrive, during the week celebrating 50,000 runners transversing the five boroughs of New York.

Grete Waitz's spirit is everywhere on the course, after having won the race nine times.

Perhaps, just perhaps, Grete Watiz would smile over her legacy, a bit surprised, but immensely pleased with the growth of running, especially women's running, and the growth and legacy of AKTIV.

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