Up North: Cloquet's Hagerl Plans to Run Grandma's to Keep Mind Off Diagnosis

Eyewitness Sports
June 14, 2017 10:59 PM

Among a group of nearly 19,000 expected to compete in the 41st annual Grandma's Marathon, every runner has their story.

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"I signed up for Grandma's last year as soon as it opened," said Cloquet resident Jim Hagerl. "I signed up for the 5k and the Grandma's Marathon the next day."

That decision came after running a three hour and twenty-four minute marathon in his Grandma's debut, but Hagerl's normalcy has changed a lot since that race.

"I was trail running, running marathons, and ultra marathons and started having trouble seeing out of my left side. I was tripping on trail runs and kind of struggling with my training in general," said Hagerl. "It was hard to do normal things in everyday life such as find my keys or make dinner," he added.

Things took a big turn dating back to a fateful day in October.

"That evening they found a mass in my brain in the occipital lobe which affects how your vision is interpreted by your brain. From there, it was a whirlwind," said Hagerl.

It was cancer. Hagerl was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a form of brain cancer that spreads quickly. From there, doctors performed a craniotomy, a type of procedure to remove as much of the tumor that they could. Chemotherapy, radiation, and wearing a an Optune, a cap-like device that makes electric fields to fight cancer, has improved his survival. Nothing quite compares to running when it comes to Hagerl's healing process.

"You get into a flow state where you don't think about anything and all you have to do is focus on your breathing, your feet hitting the pavement, and it's a beautiful thing," said Hagerl. You just zone out, put on the miles, and it's been something that has been more muscle memory for me. It's been something that's been successful for me and something I've been able to do through my fight against this cancer."

He's hit the runner's wall more frequently following his treatments, but he still continues to push through. Hagerl currently receives chemotherapy once a month for a week at a time, but that's being pushed back until after he finishes this year's Grandma's.

"This has been a huge life changing event for me," said Hagerl talking about his cancer.

From a runner who aimed at beating his personal record the second time around, he says this time, he just wants to cross the finish line. He's more focused on keeping his mind off the gravity of the diagnosis.

"It's definitely taught me to live life to its fullest. To find what I can do each day and do that. Some days it's training for a marathon and some days it's going about my day, my normal routine. This is something that has really helped me stay focused and be goal-oriented and distracted me from a terminal diagnosis of brain cancer. "

Hagerl is uncertain of what his future holds for him medically. A GoFundMe page has been set up to support him with current and future medical expenses. Click on "GoFundMe" if you would like to donate.


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