South Florida Teen Inspires Marathon Runners

Cross country runner with Lymphoma moves Miami runners

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Tony Schiappa Pietra was the #1 runner on the Palmer Trinity School cross country team.

Then, last May, he found out he had cancer. Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Just the sound of it is scary for most 16-year-olds, but not for Pietra.

"I was never terrifed," the high school junior said. " I was more upset I had to undergo chemotherapy."

He wasn't upset because he'd get sick and lose his hair, but because he knew he wouldn't be able to run cross country.

But instead of moping about it, he did something to help others. Tony and his friends organized the Tony Trot, a 5K race that raised $25,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

"It was the greatest day of my life," he said. "I didn't know so many people cared about me."

And it wasn't just people in Palmetto Bay, but all over the world. Tony's father is the CEO of a company called FreeBalance with employees worldwide. So there were people taking part in the Tony Trot in places like Guatemala, Uganda, Denmark, and Italy.

Today, Tony still isn't cancer free, but he is healthy enough to run again, although not competitively. So, since he can't take part in Sunday's ING Miami Marathon, his teachers at Palmer Trinity are running it for him.

"I'm honored," Tony said, "I don't deserve it."

That's not true of course. And the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's executive director, Joanne Davis knows it. She's overseeing a group of 300 people running for the same cause as part of the group Team in Training.

"Just knowing what Tony went through, the chemotherapy, the radiation, not being able to run" David said, "that will inspire those runners when they're taking those final steps, when they're getting sore. They can think about Tony and it will get them through it."

The ING Miami Marathon is Sunday morning in Downtown Miami. About 21,000 runners will be taking part.

Fore more information about Team in Training, go to

Follow Adam Kuperstein on Twitter at @akuperstein.

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