(LOS ANGELES) — Crossing the finish line of a 26.2-mile marathon is a huge accomplishment for anyone. Crossing the finish line of a marathon in first place while pushing your 6-year-old daughter in a stroller all 26.2 miles and battling brain cancer is an accomplishment perhaps only Iram Leon can claim.
The Austin, Texas, man, 32, did just that March 9 when he crossed the finish line of the 2013 Gusher Marathon in Beaumont, Texas, in a little more than three hours: 3:07:35.9.
“When I crossed the line, I was screaming with joy,” Leon told ABC News. “Kiana is not a good-luck charm. She’s why I keep going. Some of it’s luck, but, with her, she’s inspiration.”
Kiana is Leon’s daughter, his only child, and his motivation for running the marathon, his seventh marathon overall and fourth since he put off surgery for the cancer in his left temporal lobe in 2011 so that he could race in that year’s Livestrong Marathon.
Leon decided to run this year’s Gusher Marathon only after the race’s leaders reversed their first “no” decision and decided to let him run the marathon with a stroller, a practice usually banned. When he got to the starting line, Leon noticed that the stroller, with Kiana in it, had a flat tire.
Leon declined an offer from a race official to babysit Kiana while he ran. Instead, a race volunteer pumped up the tire and the father-daughter pair, though wobbly, was on its way.
Leon’s other battle, his cancerous tumor, affects his memory, language skills and spatial orientation. He underwent surgery in March 2011 to reduce the size of the tumor. Taking it out completely would have also removed his memory and language functions. He will be on anti-seizure medications for the rest of his life, he said.
He cannot drive, and sometimes becomes sick while running, but made it through all 26.2 miles of this race buoyed by Kiana, who let out a “woo” when her dad rounded close turns.
Leon, divorced from Kiana’s mother, was forced to quit his job as a juvenile probation officer and has been told by doctors that his cancer could not likely be cured. He has full-time custody of Kiana, although she spends every other weekend with her mother.
“The reason I started running with her [Kiana] was because of the cancer. With all that’s pending, as I’ve said all along, I don’t want to miss a moment with her,” he said.
The nonprofit organization that hosts the Gusher Marathon, the Sports Society for American Health, opened a scholarship fund for Kiana after Leon’s marathon win, setting a goal to raise $30,000.
Leon, despite the obstacles he faces, has been touched by the generosity of others and said he planned to keep running and continuing to see the bright side, well beyond 26.2 miles.
“I run because it’s my therapy where for a few moments in a race, on a track on a hill, it feels like I’m a little bit ahead of my problems,” he said. ”And I don’t honestly know if I’m running to or from something.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Karen Lehr, KIVI
Josh Friesen, Idaho State Journal