Lake Wales man to run 250 miles for cancer - WFLA News Channel 8

Lake Wales man to run 250 miles for cancer

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Rafael Martin plans to run to Tallahassee to ask the governor for increased funding for cancer research. Rafael Martin plans to run to Tallahassee to ask the governor for increased funding for cancer research.
Rafael Martin plans to run to Tallahassee to ask the governor for increased funding for cancer research. Rafael Martin plans to run to Tallahassee to ask the governor for increased funding for cancer research.
LAKE WALES, FL (WFLA) - A local man is running 250 miles over four days to Tallahassee in hopes of meeting the governor in the fight against cancer.

Rafael Martin, of Lake Wales, is running in the spirit of American Cancer Society's Relay for Life events. The 44-year-old teacher and father of two says he is running in honor of his mother, who died from stomach cancer in 2005, his aunt, and fellow teachers who are currently battling cancer.

“When my mother, Ligia Martin, passed away peacefully at home, it was devastating,” Martin said. “It’s the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. She went through chemo. She’d be throwing up all night. It was horrific.”

The goal for this run - the first 250-miler for Martin, who once weighed 300 pounds - is to meet with Governor Rick Scott and ask for increased funding for cancer research.

Martin says has personally emailed Governor Scott three times without receiving a response, but continues to fight.

“I really hope the governor is there,” he said of his Tallahassee destination. “I just want the governor to increase funding for cancer. I know it’s not enough. I’d love Florida to lead the nation as the state to donate the most to cancer research.”

Martin starts his run on March 21 at the Polk State College in Lakeland and run along U.S. 98, through Lakeland and Dade City, along U.S. 19 North to the Florida state capitol.

He will run alone, with only a backpack and little sleep to meet his goal.  He expects to arrive in Tallahassee at 9 a.m. on March 25.

Martin is so passionate about the cause and children, he has run eight 50-milers to either raise money for various cancer-based charities or school supplies. Prior to that, he says he's had little experience in running.

“I’ve been overweight and out of shape most of my life,” he said. “I was over 300 pounds. After my divorce I started running more.”

Then he turned his fitness commitment into a cause.  Martin ran a marathon and completed his first 50-mile run in May 2010 to raise money for Tenoroc High School, where he was an ESE inclusion teacher. He raised $2,200 to buy calculators for the students. Since then, he’s worn a purple Tenoroc Titans hat as a good luck symbol. Purple just happens to be the official color of Relay For Life.

His mother was treated at the Moffitt Cancer Center. After hearing the governor cut $1.2 million in 2009 in a line item veto specifically from the Moffitt Cancer Center, Martin ran 50 miles from Moffitt to Dunedin and back to raise money and awareness.

When he runs, he carries his mother’s plastic ID card with him as a reminder of her fight. Her picture on the ID shows her with little hair, which she lost while receiving chemotherapy treatments.

He recently started teaching at Our Children’s Academy in Lake Wales, where he started the school’s first relay team, which will participate in Winter Haven’s relay in April.

Martin hopes those who support the cause will reach out and provide donations to Relay for Life. He hopes American Cancer Society advocates will perhaps not only make monetary donations to the charity, but may provide funds or sponsor his overnight stays on a journey that will test his physical limits.

Those interested in donating to Martin's team can do so HERE.

Fans can follow Martin’s route on the Relay For Life of Winter Haven Facebook page HERE.

For more information or to sign up for Relay for Life Winter Haven, see HERE.

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.

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