Having a dream is vital to the human condition.
It gives a person a goal, and a drive to accomplish it. How far one will go to make a dream a reality can sometimes baffle and amaze. For the truly determined, nothing can stand in their way as they push onward to achieve their objective, no matter what obstacles throw themselves into the mix.
Even if that obstacle happens to be testicular cancer.
Such was the case for Hilltop graduate and previous student athlete Elliot Livensparger. Considering himself a runner since the age of eleven, the University of Toledo (UT) degree holder had been hoping to take part in the Boston Marathon for quite some time.
“It’s probably been a lifelong goal of mine.” Confessed Livensparger.
And those who remember watching the former state qualifier competing in cross country and track meets at Hilltop would likely expect him not only to finish the Marathon, but to do so with an exceptional time. They would be correct, as it turns out, as Livensparger completed the 26.2 mile race in an impressive 2:45:11, which earned him five-hundred and tenth place amongst a field of over thirty-thousand other runners.
“It wasn’t my fastest time.” Livensparger claimed, referencing a quicker finish in his qualifying run in Columbus.
Livensparger had hoped to begin preparation for the Marathon roughly a year ago, with plans to take part in the Glass City Marathon in Toledo, a town which he represented as a UT student athlete, again in cross country and track. Those days presented their own difficulties to the eldest of three brothers, perhaps making it the ideal place to have a practice run.
“Being a college student athlete was a challenge at times,” Livensparger admitted, before adding, “but was very rewarding.”
Any hope to stride down memory lane came to a screeching halt, however, when Livensparger discovered a lump around his testicles. Initially believing it to be a sports related occurrence, he went to see his doctor in Atlanta, where he was living at the time.
Things moved quite quickly from there.
It was a Monday when Livensparger stepped into the doctor’s office, completely unaware of the severity of his condition. His physician knew something was wrong immediately, though, booking an appointment for his patient to see a specialist the next day. After receiving his official diagnosis on that Tuesday, Livensparger was scheduled for surgery just two days later. He came out of the Thursday surgery completely rid of the cancerous cells, gaining an appreciation for how hastily such a serious situation had been rectified.
“I got lucky I didn’t go through chemo.”
Still, the cancer scare put a damper on Livensparger’s training for the Boston Marathon, as he was unable to train for months. The Glass City Marathon came and went without his participation. At this point, one would almost have to assume that most people would have given up on running any marathon, let along one as prestigious and competitive as the one held in Boston, at least for a year or two.
Such a though never even entered Livensparer’s mind.
Beginning in July, he put in eighty to one-hundred and ten mile weeks, working his way back into ideal running condition. It was a variety of workout regimens that prepared Livensparger for the Marathon. Weight training allowed him to rebuild his strength after his long stint of inactivity. He ran hill workouts to ready himself for the uneven terrain of the Boston course. Visits to the track meant speed workouts to regain his agility.
Taking time off or finding excuses to ease his training methods were not options for Livensparger, even at the worst of times. And he recommends the same mindset for anybody else with aspirations to take on such a massive undertaking.
“I would tell them persistence,” he stated, “even on those crappy days.”
Making it to Boston, Livensparger was ready and willing to compete in the most famous of races. As he was actually running in the Marathon, living out his dream, one thing stood out above all else.
“With the crowd, it was the best spectators I’ve ever had.” Proclaimed Livensparger. “They wouldn’t let you quit.”
While it was that crowd that powered him to such an astounding performance in the race itself, a more familiar set of spectators have shown no restraint in supporting one of their own.
“I truly feel like the whole West Unity community has been supportive.” Livensparger said. “It’ been awesome.”
Of course, now that the West Unity native has accomplished his goal and realized his dream, one has to wonder what it is he’ll seek out next.
“I’m still recovering right now, but I’m ready for my next one.” Announced Livensparger.
The “next one” is the Detroit Marathon, which takes place this coming Fall. The race is an international one, with part of the course leading into Canada.
Swiftly becoming an expert at marathon running, Livensparger has a few words of advice for those who may be chasing the same dream he pursued.
“Respect the distance.”
He also had some wisdom for those trying to meet their dreams in general, to which he can attest from personal experience.
“Don’t let anybody sell you short of your goal.”
As Livensparger has proven, if one has enough drive, they can overcome far greater obstacles than the doubt of others.
T.J. Hug can be reached at