A documentary about Austin runner Iram Leon, a brain cancer survivor who won a marathon while pushing his daughter in a stroller, will air on ESPN next week.
The program, an episode of the series E:60, is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4. Watch the trailer here. (A longer version will premier online Aug. 25.)
Leon was diagnosed with brain cancer in November 2010, after collapsing at a birthday party. A marble-sized tumor is entwined in the memory and language hub of his brain and has invisible “tentacles” that even doctors can’t detect. The average survival time for the disease is four years; only a third of patients live five years after diagnosis.
Doctors have told Leon, who will turn 35 next Saturday, they’re just hoping he sees his 40th birthday. His most recent MRI, in June, showed that his tumors are still stable.
After his diagnosis, Leon’s marriage fell apart. Running, he says, held him together. Today he’s the primary caregiver to his daughter Kiana, now 8.
“There’s two questions I ask: Can I keep running, and am I still fit to raise a kid. Because one’s how I get through a day, the other is why,” he says.
Leon won the Gusher Marathon in Beaumont in March 2013 – outright – while pushing his daughter in a stroller. Since then he’s won or placed at the top of other 5K, 10K and half marathons. In April he ran the 2015 Boston Marathon.
Here’s a link to an article I wrote about Leon in 2013.
Crews started working on the ESPN program shortly after he won The Gusher in 2013, making multiple visits to Austin to film him racing, visiting his doctors and interacting with his daughter.
He says he’s not planning to watch the show – “I was there, I know what happened” – but he hopes viewers get one simple message from his story.
“Get the basics before anything goes wrong,” he says. “Make good memories with people you love. Put one foot in front of the other. Hang out with your kid. These are the things you’re supposed to do.”
Leon recently returned from a five-day climbing and camping trip in New Hampshire with the organization First Descents, which provides climbing adventures for people with cancer. He’ll celebrate his birthday Aug. 8 by competing in a Spartan obstacle race in Portland, Oregon, with his brother and several cousins. Kiana will be compete in a kid’s version of the race, too.
“That’s how we party,” he says.
Then, on Sept. 13, he’ll race the fifth annual Brain Power 5K at the Cedar Park Center. As part of a fund-raiser dubbed “Let Iram Run By ‘Em,” that will benefit brain cancer research and brain cancer patients, he’ll start in last place at the run. Donors will contribute money based on how many runners he passes.
For more information about the race or to register, go here.