Earlier today, in Mbita, Kenya, the first “World AIDS Marathon” was held. While it hasn’t received much fanfare, the goal was a lofty one: to raise money for an AIDS Orphanage in Nakuru.
The marathon is nowhere near the scope of the Boston or New York events, but to the man responsible for the race, it’s a good start.
For Richard Brodsky, the story of how he came to think up and promote the event may be just as remote as the 26-mile course through Mbita, near Victoria Falls.
In 1997, he was diagnosed as HIV positive. He was married with three daughters - and he had to tell his wife, Jodi, that he contracted the virus from another man. He says, “Many women would have chosen to end their marriages right then and there. But Jodi chose to stay.”
In fact, he says he was so moved by the experience, he wrote a book about his wife. Jodi, who’s also a marathon runner, has never tested positive for HIV.
Then, in 2002, Richard was diagnosed with brain cancer. It’s now apparently in remission, following surgery and radiation therapy. The following year, he ran the New York City Marathon. It was then he conceived of the idea of a World AIDS Marathon.
hE SAYS, "It’s sort of based on my story that I’m HIV positive. I have brain cancer and I can still run marathons. It’s basically a plea to business, government and people to realize that people like myself – we can live with AIDS – if we can just get the AIDS medicine. And we don’t have to have 8,000 people dying every day."
He wants to raise money to help some of Africa’s many AIDS orphans.
"There are 12 million orphans in Africa, whose parents have died from AIDS. It’s just so sad for these children. And they need homes, they need nourishment, they need education. So, we’re also working on funding orphanages so these children can grow up healthy in a safe environment," he says.
Richard doesn’t expect to raise large amounts of money this year from the marathon, maybe several thousand dollars. But he says it may be enough to buy some hot meals and pay for the education of children at the Little Lambs AIDS Orphanage in Nakuru, Kenya.
He also hopes to raise awareness about AIDS orphans, especially among Americans.
"There are six million Jews who have died in the Holocaust. Everybody knows that. That was only known after the Holocaust. Well, right now, we know there are 12 million orphans, but the word just isn’t getting out," he says.
A number of prominent people have expressed support for his efforts, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, UN Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis and US Senator-elect Barack Obama.
At the time of the interview, in November, Richard said good-naturedly he hoped he’d be in shape for the Kenyan run.
"I have my own problems, though. I just ran the New York City Marathon three weeks ago and I didn’t have the best run that day. Plus I’ll be running in high altitude. The weather is warmer. They tell me it’s hilly and I haven’t had enough rest since the last marathon," he says.
It cost about $11,000 to stage the marathon in Mbita. Richard Brodsky hopes the next World AIDS Marathon will have a lot more people and raise a lot more Money.