While I was a fairly good high school and college wrestler from ages 12-20, all the running I did in those years was to get in shape for wrestling or to make weight. Nonetheless, I knew that one day I was going to run a marathon. This was kind of easy to understand as my athletic career peaked in the years of the running boom—the decade of the 1970’s, when Frank Shorter, Bill Rogers and Alberto Salazar were household names.
However, after marrying Debbie and having two children, our son, Aaron, and our daughter, Megan, I never really did get to return to running until the age 47, after I tore my ACL, MCL, and meniscus while skiing on Wildcat Mountain in NH. Rehabbing from that injury made me commit again to improving my physical fitness. I am now 60 and have been running ever since.
Just two years after my ski accident, I was diagnosed with cancer on my right parotid gland. Recovery from the surgery and radiation treatments affirmed my commitment to marathon running. After the ski injury, and before the cancer, I had run several half marathons and realized I was pretty fit for men my age. Thus, starting at age 51, until age 59, I ran 16 marathons (12 were sub-3 hours), two a year, missing just one due to injury. During that stretch I ran 8 straight Boston Marathons from 2009 through 2016 as well as four NYC Marathons and four PHL Marathons. For men my age, I have placed as high as 8th and 11th in Boston and 5th and 10th in NYC. My last solo marathon was the NYC Marathon in November 2016, I was 59.
Seven days after that marathon, our 26-year old son, Aaron, the first person to hug me after the 2016 NYC Marathon, died in a fatal accident doing the sport he loved – trail motorcycling. Debbie and I were devastated. Our family was devastated. Aaron’s friends were devastated.
Who was Aaron? It hardly seems fair to have to reduce his life to a few words. Here is our attempt:
Throughout his youth, Aaron was always involved in family, with neighborhood friends, with school or with sports. He was always on the move and his activities became the family’s activities. Megan went everywhere to watch Aaron. Aaron knew his parents and Megan were there for him, and it was obvious that his family was different than others; yet never once did he ask, “why?”
Aaron attended Moorestown Friends School. It was a life altering decision. Aaron excelled in advanced coursework in calculus, physics and computer science. However his intellectual abilities were not only defined by theory or text books, rather he learned by doing, building, and repairing. Moorestown Friends School supported Aaron’s interests in building and fixing things, as he sought out opportunities in electives such as engineering design, advanced woodworking, rocketry, robotics, and slot car engineering. Aaron’s woodworking skills and desire to build with his hands allowed him to be selected with a few students to build a grandfather clock. Beyond the classroom, Aaron enjoyed the opportunity to play soccer and golf throughout high school. His athletic career was highlighted by playing 4-years of varsity golf and being a team co-captain during his senior year. He relished the sport of golf and would continue to do so throughout his life.
Aaron matriculated to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the fall of 2007 and graduated in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, with a focus in Thermodynamics. While at RPI, Aaron continued to live beyond the classroom as he was actively participated in the Rensselaer Sports Car Association, the Down Hill Mountain Biking Team, and the fraternity of Phi Sigma Kappa. He also spent many hours skiing the mountains of Vermont with his RPI friends.
Upon graduation, Aaron was employed as a Mechanical Engineer at Urban’s office in Philadelphia. He continued to work for Urban for each of his five years after graduating. Significantly, during those years, he enjoyed living at home with his parents and sister in Moorestown.
An avid outdoors-man, Aaron loved to ski, mountain bike, play golf, and ride through the New Jersey Pine Barrens in his rugged 4-wheel drive truck and his trail motorcycles. The thrill of the adventure was always followed by his passion for cleaning, fixing, maintaining, or re-building his many vehicles. These many and varied interests blessed Aaron with a wide circle of friends quilted together by a common thread: adventurous and fun-filled time spent with Aaron.
Aaron was uniquely inspired by his sister Megan. He loved her dearly. He knew of the challenges she faces, and he could openly express his love for her to his friends and family. Impressed by the support she and his family have received by the Githens Center, the Burlington County ARC, and many others, Aaron was compassionate and committed to supporting individuals with disabilities, serving as a volunteer and a fundraiser.
Aaron was loyal, kind, loving, and caring to his parents, sister, family, and to so many wonderful friends. His loss is profound, and he is deeply missed.
Five months after Aaron’s death, the streak of 8 Boston Marathons ended. I was not able to run. Soon, however, I found new hope in running and decided to dedicate all future running to Aaron, and I would do it while pushing his sister Megan, whom he so dearly loved. In September 2017, Megan and I ran the Philadelphia Distance Run, and in November 2017 we ran the Philadelphia Marathon. Megan has a Hoyt Racing Chair that we have designed to memorialize Aaron. When we run, my wife, Debbie, Aaron’s and Megan’s Mom, is always there. Our large family and Aaron’s friends come to see us. We have our usual pre and post race gatherings, but now we do it to remember Aaron. In the PHL Marathon in November of 2017, Megan and I ran 3:24, good enough to place 4th in my age group (60-64); the others were not pushing someone.