Health & Fitness

She goes the extra miles to raise money for childhood cancer research

Caryn Lubetsky and her son, Davis, run the 2018 Miami Marathon.
Caryn Lubetsky and her son, Davis, run the 2018 Miami Marathon.

Running a marathon is a feat most of the population won’t attempt to accomplish, and many who do stop after their first 26.2-mile race.

Even among regular runners, only 50 percent say they’ve started even one, according to marathontrainingschedule.com.

Then, there are athletes like Caryn Lubetsky. At 47, she started running only seven years ago. Already she has competed in more than 30 marathons — as well as several ultra marathons, which range from 50 miles to more than 100 miles, and four Ironman Triathlons.

“I ran a half mile in January, a month before my 40th birthday, just to see if I could, and I loved it, so I signed up for my first marathon three weeks later,” she said. “I quickly fell in love with the distance.”

The Miami Shores attorney and mother of three does the occasional 5K, but only because they’re “great for speedwork.”

“I would rather run at a controlled pace for hours than all out for a pace of 3.1 miles,” she said.

On top of her running and her law practice, Lubetsky also coaches cross country for students in 6th through 12th grade at Miami Country Day School.

This year, Lubetsky is planning to run in eight marathons (she completed last month’s Boston Marathon), a 50-kilometer race and two 100-mile ultra marathons. She also was selected to compete in the grueling Badwater 135, billed as the “the world’s toughest foot race,” which takes place in July in Death Valley, California.

Her ability to master distance also served her well competing in the Ironman Triathlons. In two of them, she pulled and pushed her race partner, Kerry Gruson, who is a quadriplegic.

Lubetsky’s next race is the Keys 100, a 100-mile race through the Florida Keys that can either be run in relay teams or individually. Lubetsky’s running the entire distance herself. This will be her fifth time competing in the race.

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Caryn Lubetsky competes in the 2018 Keys 100 race through the Florida Keys. She hopes to raise $1,000 per mile for childhood cancer research in this year’s race. Courtesy of Robin Diamond

“I ran my first 50-mile ultra and my first 100 miler in the Keys, so it holds a special place in my heart,” she said. “It is an extraordinary race with a hometown feel. The beauty of the Keys coupled with the brutal South Florida temps in May make it a challenge that you love to hate.”

So, how does someone run such distances without psyching herself out? Lubetsky says she segments the race course in her mind.

“I never think of it as a 135-mile run or a 12-hour race, or even 26.2,” she said. “Prior to each race, I divide the course or miles into sections and set goals for each portion of the race. That way, I am only focused on some small segment at a time, and the distance or time does not seem to be overwhelming.”

“Each segment is almost its own race with different purpose and different goals,” she said.

Eating right is also a key to Lubetsky’s success on the road. For the most part, it’s just a matter of sticking to whole foods on a regular basis and shunning processed foods. But before races, things get a little more scientific.

“After a hard training session, I always try to eat lean protein within an hour to aid muscle repair,” she explained. “And, once or twice a year, prior to a big endurance race, I will go without carbs for a few days to drain my glycogen stores to zero, and then three days pre-race, I carb load. The process allows your glycogen stores to be filled to their potential and fuel you through race day.”

How about her diet during extreme distance races? “All bets are off,” Lubetsky said.

“I eat crazy things that I would never dream about eating,” she said. “During the Florida Xtreme Coast to Coast triathlon, I ate a Pop Tart after being on the race course for about 24 hours.”

She also has a simple but effective weapon of choice.

“My main go-to food for endurance events is always, hands down, Uncrustables — peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches,” Lubetsky said.

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In an Ironman Florida race in Panama City Beach, Caryn Lubetsky partnered with Kerry Gruson, a quadriplegic. Lubetsky towed Gruson in a kayak by a line tethered to her waist for the 2.4-mile swim, attached a racing chair to the back of her bike to pedal through the 112-mile ride, and then pushed her through the 26.2-mile marathon. Miami Herald archives 2015

For most of her running career, Lubetsky has competed to raise money and awareness for the HIV Education and Law Project, or HELP, which she founded after graduating from the University of Miami Law School in 1996. The Miami Beach-based nonprofit provides free legal services for indigent people living with HIV and AIDS.

She’s now running to help the Childhood Cancer Project, a cause in which she became involved after a close friend’s son was diagnosed with osteosarcoma when he was 11.

The nonprofit’s goal is to raise $1,000 per mile at both the Keys 100 race and the Badwater 135 through corporate sponsorship.

“I knew I had to do more. I am fortunate to be able to use my love for running to help fund research with the hopes of moving the needle from the just 4 percent of funding that the National Cancer Institute allocates to the research of all childhood cancers combined,” Lubetsky said. “When I learned that children diagnosed today are receiving the same therapies and treatments those diagnosed 40 years ago received, I knew I had to do something.”

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