Medical problems link father, daughter runners

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GRANGER, Ind. (AP) — Doctors told Sarah Cira she'd never run again.

Seven surgeries, including four to her knee, and eight years of chronic back pain gave her little hope.

Cira, though, didn't want to give up on her dream of running again, specifically her lifelong goal of running the Chicago Marathon. So she decided no more doctors, chiropractors, physical therapy, massage therapy, vitamins and blood-draw specialists. She was done.

Although it had been years since Cira had run without significant pain, she decided back in March she was going to give it one more try.

To her surprise, she felt no pain.

"I felt great," said the 35-year-old Cira, a former standout runner at Penn High School who went on to run at the University of Evansville. "I never would have expected it."

So she kept on running in secret, training for a half marathon this past summer — and signing up for Sunday's Chicago Marathon.

The real pain for Cira didn't come until April 24, when her father, Steve Smith, a longtime competitor and champion of Ironman events, was diagnosed with glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer.

Cira was crushed.

The next day, doctors removed between 96 percent and 98 percent of the tumor. But Smith, 64, who moved from northern Indiana to Florida last year, still has a long road ahead battling the cancer, which has a 14.7-month average life expectancy, Cira said.

Cira can't get over the coincidence that during the same time period her body finally healed, leading to a second chance at running, her dad — a 12-time finisher of the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii who played a part in inspiring Cira to run again — now had cancer.

"It's a challenge," Smith told the South Bend Tribune (http://bit.ly/QMlcpn ) by phone this week. "I just have to plow through and see what happens. I'm not out of the woods yet."

Amazingly, perhaps, despite the radiation and chemotherapy, Smith has still competed in three triathlons this year in Florida and just recently ran a mile in under nine minutes.

"Six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy for dad was tough, but he continued to swim and bike through all of it," Cira said. "Now, his chemo cycles knock him down."

"I do what I can do when I can," Smith added.

Despite the challenges, Smith has shown the same courage he did in completing a dozen Ironman World Championships, a grueling test of endurance consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run.

Smith has consistently won his age division in triathlons he's competed in across the nation during his career, including four top-five finishes in his age group in Hawaii.

Cira figures he's probably done 200 some triathlons. And there doesn't appear to be any quit in him.

"I've got races I'm looking into for next year," he said. "But it's difficult not knowing what lies ahead."

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Information from: South Bend Tribune, http://www.southbendtribune.com

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