Hopkinton resident Michael Parduhn connected with Meg, his late wife, in Chicago years ago through running. Now he is using their shared passion as a way to raise awareness about ovarian cancer, the disease that took her life more than four years ago, by running as part of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team in the Boston Marathon.
Parduhn will be easy to spot in the packed field of runners, he said, because he will be sporting a teal tutu. The idea was suggested by his eldest daughter, Taylor, so that he could catch people’s attention. Teal is the color associated with ovarian cancer, he noted.
“I just wear it for the long runs,” the Virginia native explained, noting this is his first Boston Marathon appearance. “It gets a lot of support from other runners, and people in cars will beep and give me a thumbs up. It’s fun to see people smile. My daughter asked me why I don’t wear it every day.”
This year marks the 34th annual running of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge. All of the money raised by the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team benefits Dana-Farber’s Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research. The Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge has raised more than $115 million for the Barr Program to date, and there are more than 500 members from around the world on the DFMC team this year.
Parduhn said that he and Meg, a Michigan native who was a work colleague in Chicago, first became interested in running together when they watched Chicago Marathon runners speed past his condominium there.
“I saw all the excitement, so I asked her if she wanted to run it with me,” he said.
“At first she said, ‘No, that’s stupid,’ ” Parduhn explained with a laugh, noting they eventually ran it together in 1995. “But she was big into fitness, so we started training together and began dating. It was a good way for us to be together and work things out as a young couple. Plus, we were both very stubborn.”
The Parduhns moved to Braintree when Michael pursued his MBA at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They returned to Meg’s old neighborhood in Michigan and lived there for four years while he worked for Ford Motor Company.
Parduhn said the couple moved to Hopkinton after he was “offered a job with a retail restaurant start-up.” Drawn to Hopkinton because of its stellar public school system, the young family initially rented an apartment for a year before purchasing a house about 15 years ago and establishing roots here.
“We came here because the school system was rated in the top 100 in Boston Magazine,” he said. “But it was also really cool to live where the Boston Marathon starts.”
While Meg was an avid runner and swimmer, Michael said he would occasionally participate in local 5Ks and the Marathon Fitness Challenge for the Elmwood Elementary School.
“When my kids were around 10 years old, they began to beat me,” said Parduhn, noting that he has knee and back issues from playing hockey when he was younger. “It was very humbling.”
Pacing himself was a key Parduhn learned from his wife that has been a valuable tool in life as well as in running. Now a 51-year-old single father with four kids, Parduhn retired from his job of 12 years at CVS Health. He did this to be able to be more active in his children’s lives, he said, and to take better care of his own health.
“I retired so that I could be here for my kids,” he said. “I also wanted to spend some time being healthy so that I could be there for my kids for as long as I possibly can.”
After his retirement last April, Parduhn said he “diligently started running 3 miles a day three times a week. His Garmin watch, a popular accessory for runners, helps him to keep his pacing now. By November, he was able to run 13.1 miles – the length of a half-marathon – with his friends.
“Finding out that I was accepted in October for the DFMC team was exciting and scary at the same time,” he said, noting that the application process was “a good way to think through my motivation.”
“I got accepted a week before the anniversary of her passing,” he noted. “The timing seemed appropriate.”
As he spoke about his late wife, Parduhn became emotional. He explained that his wife received treatment at the Dana-Farber facilities primarily in Milford but also in Boston, calling the staff “very caring and loving.”
“My kids make fun of me because they say I always cry,” Michael added as he swept away tears. “I will definitely be crying when I am running the Marathon.
“In September 2018, Meg was not doing well,” he continued. “At her treatment on Oct. 16, her doctor said it was the end. My birthday was on Oct. 17, and she passed away on the 18th. I think she was hanging on for my birthday.
Parduhn’s father died in November 2021 from liver cancer, making this run even more meaningful. After the Boston Marathon, Michael will begin training for the Chicago Marathon in October.
He explained that he is using the training program discussed in the book “Runner’s World Run Less, Run Faster.” He has been alternating runs with days in the gym, tapering down the number of miles to allow recovery time for his legs before the big event.
“Even on the days when I’m training and it’s really hard, I know that it’s easier than what [Meg] went through,” he said. “It’s just running, putting my feet in front of each other. I can do that. And I just got my new teal running shoes to match the tutu.”
To donate to Parduhn’s fundraiser, visit danafarber.jimmyfund.org/site/TR?fr_id=1930&pg=personal&px=1794131.