Saugus grad Loren Zitomersky has been doing athletic events with his father for the last 20 years with two goals in mind: raise awareness and money for epilepsy.
So when Zitomersky qualified for this year’s Boston Marathon, he knew he had to do something big.
“Somebody suggested a world record,” Zitomersky said. “So I started looking though all the records and almost all of them were wearing a costume. I was like, I don’t want to be the fastest guy to fun a marathon dressed as a clown.”
That’s when Zitomersky changed directions. Instead of running the marathon forward, he decided to run it backwards with hopes of setting the world record for fastest marathon backwards.
On April 16, he’ll attempt to run the Boston Marathon’s 26.2-mile course entirely backwards in less than three hours, 43 minutes and 39 seconds.
Zitomersky, who graduated from Saugus in 2002, is running to raise awareness for epilepsy specifically because his younger brother, Brian, died of the condition in 1977 – before Zitomersky was born.
He draws parallels between his backwards running and epilepsy itself.
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“Having epilepsy is in certain ways like going through life backwards,” he said. “People who have uncontrolled seizures, they can happen at any time and so they really cant see in front of them and its hard for them to plan things out and live life.”
Zitomersky, who works as a movie production attorney at Disney, has been training for the marathon for nearly two months. He runs outdoors at Griffith Park or on a treadmill most days, but sometimes will train at his work gym on the Disney lot.
There are obvious dangers to running backwards on a regular basis, but Zitomersky said that he has never run into a person yet – just a tree.
“I get a lot of looks with mouths open,” said Zitomersky. “Some people get excited. I get people cheering me on. I had one women just walk up to me and hug me. I had people copy me, but they generally only make it 50 feet.”
It took him a bit to work through the neck pain that came from constantly looking to see where he was going, but Zitomersky has seen benefits from running in reverse. It’s improved his calve and glute muscles in addition to giving him better posture.
Zitomersky hopes to raise $100,000 in support of epilepsy awareness through his marathon and fitness events – which have also included various marathons and cycling events.
Those who would like to donate can visit Zitomersky’s website at www.bostonbackwards.com.
“There’s a stigma with epilepsy,” he said. “Seizures are scary. When people can’t control their mind, its scary for people. And people don’t talk about it. Its not like cancer and disorders that people talk about.
“I’ve had people at Disney who have approached me and told me about family members or close friends that have had epilepsy and their story and they’ve opened up for me. I’m really doing something for that underserved and underfunded community.”