NEW YORK CITY (BP)–A former assistant editor of Baptist Press is now known to thousands as Marathon Todd after completing the New York City Marathon just two years after undergoing open heart surgery to save his life.
Todd Starnes, who worked for Baptist Press from 2000-03 and now is a network anchor for Fox News Radio in New York, ran the 26.2 miles in 6 hours and 53 minutes Nov. 4.
Leading up to the race, Starnes was featured daily on foxnews.com in a blog devoted to his preparation for what he called afterward one of the greatest moments in his life and one of the most difficult feats he ever accomplished.
Starnes, a longtime Southern Baptist, used the high-profile blog to point people to the Bible, such as in his last entry before the race.
“I was in Central Park last week. I enjoy having my quiet time there — usually in the morning,” he wrote Nov. 2. “I was reading one of the Apostle Paul’s writing[s]. He wrote about running a good race. It wasn’t about finishing first. It wasn’t about setting some sort of record. Instead, the Bible suggested it was more important how you run the race.
“It’s been a long two years and my journey has taken me over some interesting territory,” Starnes added. “And now, it all comes down to this one single moment. As I prepare for Sunday’s race, my only hope, my deepest desire is to run a good race.”
In his Oct. 29 blog entry, Starnes again wrote matter-of-factly about his faith when discussing the deaths of both his parents within the past year.
“There’s an old song we used to sing in church. I don’t remember all of the words but there’s a line that goes something like this: There’s a land that is fairer than day and by faith we can see it afar. For the Father waits over the way to prepare us a dwelling place there. In the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore. In the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore.
“My faith has sustained me in this season of sorrow because I know that one day I will see them both again,” Starnes, 39, wrote on foxnews.com.
Starnes’ journey to the New York City Marathon, he said, began on May 17, 2005, two weeks after he was diagnosed with a near-fatal heart condition that involved the shutting down of his aortic valve. Just before five hours of surgery, Starnes wondered if he’d live to see another day, he said.
“The Starnes family gene pool and my proclivity to fried chicken had almost sent me to an early grave,” he recounted in his initial foxnews.com blog entry Oct. 23. “I was 37 years old, weighed almost 300 pounds, and I had just survived open heart surgery. My doctor suggested I needed to radically reevaluate my life. And he was absolutely right.”
Since he had been given a second chance at life, Starnes made a covenant to lose weight, start exercising and run the New York City Marathon, a race through the city’s five boroughs that he said “pushes men and women to the breaking point.”
After nearly six months of training and the loss of more than 100 pounds, Starnes realized his goal as one of 38,000 runners from around the world.
“I had visions of grandeur when I started the day, but when I lost my cookies at mile seven, the marathon reminded me who was in charge,” he wrote Nov. 5. “And by mile 13 I had injured my foot. It was a difficult day — but I was determined to cross that finish line no matter what — hobbled foot and all.
“And I did. By the time I arrived in Central Park, the crowds had thinned out and they were sweeping garbage off the streets. Darkness was setting in,” Starnes wrote. “I was one of the last stragglers — but when I hit Columbus Circle and made the grand turn into the park, I felt like I was a world-class marathon runner.
“I decided to sprint the last mile, kicking into high gear as I bolted down the home stretch. The bandstands were virtually empty, but there to greet me was the biggest crowd of all — my family! Hearing their cheers and their shouts of encouragement was enough to propel me over the finish line, pumping my fists and jumping into the air.”
Starnes shared with readers some lessons he learned on his two-year journey from heart surgery to finishing a grueling race: live a healthy life, live a life with purpose, live a loving life, live a family life and live like you are living.
“As I close this chapter of my life, I am once again drawn to the encouragement of Scripture. Press on toward the prize, the Bible urges us. Run with endurance the race that God has set before you,” Starnes wrote.
“Throughout our lives we accumulate titles. Some are called husbands and brothers, others are sons and friends,” he noted. “Looking back over these past two years, I’m adding a new title to my name — survivor.”
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press. To read Starnes’ blog or watch video from his run, go to www.foxnews.com/health.