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Runner completes marathon months after bone marrow transplant

<i>WCCO</i><br/>James Kirkham completed a marathon less than a year after a bone marrow transplant
James Kirkham completed a marathon less than a year after a bone marrow transplant

By David Schuman

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    MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minneapolis man achieved a remarkable feat this weekend, running Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth less than a year after a bone marrow transplant.

It was the 42nd time James Kirkham’s crossed the finish line, more than almost anyone.

“From a prognosis that you’ll be dead in maybe four months to, ‘You know what? You’re going to be running with the blood of a 23-year-old,’ I mean, it felt so great,” Kirkham said.

After being diagnosed last year with bone marrow leukemia, a transplant in July from an anonymous donor saved Kirkham’s life. It was a perfect match.

“So thankful, so grateful,” Kirkham said. “Who gets a gift like that?”

Kirkham says he knew the day of the transplant his goal was to run Grandma’s at the age of 69. He donated a treadmill to M Health Fairview to put in his room.

“I started walking, then walking faster, then running a little bit, and finally in January I could actually do some running,” Kirkham said. “I got up to 40 miles a week.”

Motivation came from many sources, including a scrapbook documenting every marathon Kirkham’s run since his first when he was 25. There was another important piece of inspiration, too.

“This is Father’s Day. My daughters carried me through that, and my wife Shelly,” Kirkham said. “Family is key to being able to go through this, as well as your healthcare providers.”

Kirkham hung the medal from Saturday alongside all the rest he’s earned — a testament to an iron spirit and will to succeed. It’s been an inspiration to his family, too, and he hopes to others.

“My wife’s sister’s kids all signed up for Be the Match after seeing how it saved my life,” Kirkham said. “Grateful for anybody that’s willing to get on that list to try to save somebody’s life.”

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