ALZ Stars Athlete Returns to Chicago after 21 Years to Honor his Mother

“Well, I’m doing it again. I am running the Chicago Marathon,” shared ALZ Star athlete John Stalker Henderson, who goes by Stalker. He ran his first Bank of America Chicago Marathon in 2000, with his wife and infant daughter—now a graduate of Northwestern University—waiting for him at the finish line. 

After two decades, Stalker registered for the 2020 Bank of America Chicago Marathon with team ALZ Stars. The 2020 race was cancelled due to COVID-19, but Stalker chose to run 26.2 miles in his home city of Denver, Colorado. (As he jokingly puts it, he got “first place in the Chicago Marathon: Denver Edition.”)

Finally, after 21 years and one postponement, Stalker returned to the Windy City to cross the finish line in Grant Park. 

Stalker was one of 150 ALZ Stars athletes in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Sunday, October 10. The team included runners from 33 states and 4 countries, covering a total of 5,004 miles on race day. 

“Alzheimer’s is not going away just because COVID-19 is with us,” he shared. “So that too had me wanting to continue to run.” 

He joined ALZ Stars in honor of his mother, who he lost to Alzheimer’s disease. “My mother was diagnosed with what were clear issues of dementia, something that was very close to me given work that I do with folks who are older and sometimes suffer with dementia.” 

“When I did run when she was around she found it to be kind of absurd,” Stalker recounts with a chuckle. “Even while she was battling dementia [she] was very full of good humor and funny.” Years ago, Stalker ran a race and came in second place behind a high school student. “I got a little second prize…and she looked at me and said, ‘Well, why didn’t you win?’” laughs Stalker. 

“Last year, I was genuinely buoyed by the financial and emotional support I received from so many people across all parts of my life,” shared Stalker. Many of his donors knew his mother personally, or supported his fundraising because of their own personal connection to Alzheimer’s disease. 

“When my legs got heavy and the miles got a little longer, I reminded myself of [their] words of encouragement,” shared Stalker. “I happen to be a runner who doesn’t like to run with earbuds in, so when I’m out doing my training runs it’s just me and the sound of my breath and the thoughts in my head. And those thoughts are frequently ones that focus upon the people who have rallied to the cause and provided support to the Alzheimer’s Association and support for me to run the race.”

Stalker is the top fundraiser on the 2021 ALZ Stars team, raising $14,173 for the Alzheimer’s Association to enhance care, support programs and research to ultimately to find a cure.  

“I happen to have friends who are scientists who have benefited from the work that the Alzheimer’s Association has done in support of their scientific research,” Stalker shared. “The money is important…so I’ve done the math in my head and worked it out: how much every stride is. And that helps when the body starts breaking down a little bit for the longer runs.” 

Our ALZ Stars make a huge impact in the fight to end Alzheimer’s, and Stalker leads the pack with his fundraising. So while his mom couldn’t be there at the marathon finish line, we’re certain she would be proud of Stalker’s first place fundraiser status achieved in her honor.

Interested in running the 2022 Bank of America Chicago Marathon with team ALZ Stars? Register at http://act.alz.org/ALZStars2022.

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