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Runner tackles marathon sans stomach

The Daily Jay Greenberg
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Under any circumstances running 26.2 miles takes fortitude. Patrick Armstrong is going to do so in the New York City Marathon with more than most.

Because he carries a gene leaving him 80 percent predisposed to Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer, Armstrong had his stomach taken out in 2009. The alternative, waiting for a cancer that never shows itself until a too-late Stage Three or Four, seemed no alternative at all.

nyc marathon

Newcomers in NYC

Two first-timers pick up the men's and women's titles in the 2010 NYC Marathon.

“When someone gives you power to eliminate an event that can kill you, the choice becomes quite easy,” he said.

Hard, on the other hand, defines a NYC Marathon course that even many elite runners dodge. But to benefit the DeGregorio Family Foundation, founded by survivors of a clan devastated by upper intestinal malignancies, Armstrong is going to run five boroughs Sunday one small step and even smaller sip of water at a time.

“A big gulp for me is four ounces,” he said. “I’ll stop at every station and at some may be able to only rinse my mouth.

“I’m running for a charity important to me because I have (two) children at risk. I’m running for solidarity with 14 family members who have had to go through what I have.

“And I’m running for myself to know that I can.”

Two years ago, Armstrong was a 288-pound former football lineman at Columbia University. He now must consume up to eight small meals a day to maintain 172 pounds on a 6-foot-2 frame.

He ducks off the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, where Armstrong executes trades for Prime Executions Independent Brokerage, and eats the second half of his sandwich an hour later. He orders a petite filet in a restaurant and with especially good dinner conversation still finishes his meal.

On this day, his pasta carbo-loading for the race will be in three shifts between 3-7 p.m.

“Fats are hard for me,” he said. “Can’t eat heavy sweets, won’t feel good afterwards.

Health hazards

Completing a marathon is rough, but it has nothing on these dangerous sports habits.

“Carbonation is difficult, beer the worst because there are no valves anymore for gas to get out. Wine and alcohol are fine, just hits me faster and leaves faster, kind of weird.

“I have been able to eat a whole sandwich in 30 minutes. Other days, I don’t want to eat. But I still average 1,800-2,200 calories a day, about what everybody should.”

Two months before his operation, his sister almost died from complications from hers. He still had the stomach — at least then — to go through with it and his recovery proved the fastest of any in the family. Overall, Armstrong says he has never felt better. His greatest anxiety about Sunday is a knee that kept him out of last year’s race and with which he bumped a fire hydrant during his commute last week.

“I don’t care, I’m running,” he said.

“My college football teams won nine games over four years. We had 65 come out freshman year and I was one of eight who played all four. I see things through.”

One hundred pounds later, you can almost see through him. So it’s transparent that what’s left is 172 pounds of determination.

Under any circumstances, running 26.2 miles takes guts, never mind Patrick Armstrong is going to do it with much of his removed.

Because he carries a gene leaving him 80 percent predisposed to Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer, Armstrong had his stomach taken out in 2009. The alternative, waiting for a cancer that never shows itself until a too-late Stage Three or Four, seemed no alternative at all.

“When someone gives you power to eliminate an event that can kill you, the choice becomes quite easy,” he said.

Hard, on the other hand, defines a New York City Marathon course that even many elite runners dodge. But to benefit the DeGregorio Family Foundation, founded by survivors of a clan devastated by upper intestinal malignancies, Armstrong is going to run five boroughs tomorrow one small step and even smaller sip of water at a time.

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“A big gulp for me is four ounces,” he said. “I’ll stop at every station and at some may be able to only rinse my mouth.

“I’m running for a charity important to me because I have (two) children at risk. I’m running for solidarity with 14 family members who have had to go through what I have.

“And I’m running for myself to know that I can.”

Two years ago, Armstrong was a 288-pound former football lineman at Columbia University. He now must consume up to eight small meals a day to maintain 172 pounds on a 6-2 frame.

He ducks off the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, where Armstrong executes trades for Prime Executions Independent Brokerage, and eats the second half of his sandwich an hour later. He orders a petite filet in a restaurant and with especially good dinner conversation still finishes his meal.

Today, his pasta carbo-loading for the race will be in three shifts between 3-7 p.m.

“Fats are hard for me,” he said. “Can’t eat heavy sweets, won’t feel good afterwards.

“Carbonation is difficult, beer the worst because there are no valves anymore for gas to get out. Wine and alcohol are fine, just hits me faster and leaves faster, kind of weird.

“I have been able to eat a whole sandwich in 30 minutes. Other days, I don’t want to eat. But I still average 1,800-2,200 calories a day, about what everybody should.”

Two months before his operation, his sister almost died from complications from hers. He still had the stomach — at least then — to go through with it and his recovery proved the fastest of any in the family. Overall, Armstrong says he has never felt better. His greatest anxiety tomorrow is a knee that kept him out of last year’s race that bumped a fire hydrant during his commute last week.

“I don’t care, I’m running,” he said.

“My college football teams won nine games over four years. We had 65 come out freshman year and I was one of eight who played all four. I see things through.”

One hundred pounds later, you can almost see through him. So it’s transparent that what’s left is 172 pounds of determination.

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