Fairfield’s Karpen runs for a purpose
By her own admission, Pamela Karpen isn’t a runner and, most certainly, not someone who runs marathons for fun in their free time.
That said, on Monday, April 15, the Fairfield resident will find herself at the starting line of the Boston Marathon, running as part of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute charity team.
“I have sort of become a runner,” Karpen said. “I’ve never thought of myself a runner. I guess now that I’m training for a marathon I have to call myself a runner.”
Karpen began running 16 years ago when her younger sister Jennifer passed away. For Karpen, the time running gave her a place to grieve.
Eventually, in 2004, alongside her older sister, Deborah Sloan, Karpen ran her first of what would become many Boston Half Marathons. This is how she first became aware of Dana-Farber’s charity efforts.
At the time, Karpen didn’t know anyone with cancer, but tried her best to support Dana-Farber. Shortly thereafter, her then 7-year-old niece Michelle was diagnosed with advanced melanoma.
“She’s 19 and doing great. It’s miraculous she survived,” Karpen said. “At that point, I said I’d run and raise money for Dana-Farber as long as my body would allow.”
Cancer continued to impact Karpen’s life when her father, David Sloan, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2011. Treatments at Dana-Farber extended David Sloan’s life, but he passed away on the eve of the 2016 Boston Marathon.
This led the sisters to volunteer at the marathon, which hatched the idea in Karpen’s mind of running the race for charity.
“I thought I would be able to call up and say I’d run the marathon,” she said. “That’s not the case. There’s an application process, essays ... details of how to raise the money. Lo and behold, I’m one of 500 runners on the Dana-Farber team. That’s how we got here.”
Karpen’s initial fundraising goal came in at $13,100 — a nod to her half marathon history. She’s since raised over $22,000 appealing to friends and family. Karpen owns the Bethel Cinema and has sold movie posters to raise money.
Beyond the fundraising, there are the physical demands and discipline that comes with training for a 26.2-mile race.
“It’s not so easy to start doing this in your 50s,” she said. “It’s all-consuming. … Honestly if I wasn’t do it for Dana-Farber, I don’t know if I’d have the drive or motivation to continue training the way I’ve gone.”
When she runs, Karpen includes the names of people affected by cancer on her arm. Unfortunately, as she notes, the list continues to grow.
“It’s just too much. We have to find a cure,” she said. “I will talk about it. I’ll do whatever I can to raise money so the research can get better and lifespans can get better.”
The memory of Karpen’s father continues to provide motivation even on the challenging days as the miles pile up.
“It’s almost three years since my dad died,” Karpen said. “I think, yeah, I can get through. I’ll think about him when the miles start hurting.”
To donate: http://danafarber.jimmyfund.