True Grit

When you hear that someone is gearing up to run a 24-hour hundred miler, it’s not unreasonable to assume that that person is a serious runner. Then you come across an outlier like Sean Thomson. Sure, Thomson has two marathons [4:30:00 and 4:15:00 respective finishes] along with a very respectable 1:06:00 Broad Street Run finish under his belt. But when you talk about those experiences with him you quickly learn that he only did them to see if he could. “I just wanted to see how fast I could run. I don’t consider myself a runner.” Oh, he also ran a 100 miler roughly 11 years ago, again, mostly to push his limits but also to raise funds for autism awareness. Now he’s preparing to run his second century, and this time it’s personal.

Earlier this year Thomson’s sister-in-law, Natalie, was diagnosed with breast cancer and her insurance has been putting her through hell. This news, combined with his longtime friend, John Adamski, losing his mother-in-law to cancer was all the spark he needed to commit to running another 100. But the idea of a 24-hour 100 miler didn’t just come out of the blue. Adamski had already been pestering Thomson for several months to run another century prior to the bad news.

Thomson doesn’t consider himself a runner, or even an endurance athlete. But, as owner and coach at ,No Limit Gym, he’s fit as hell, and willing to put his body on the line for his loved ones; so at 5:00am October 8th, 2022, Thomson, Adamski, and their friend, John McBride will grind through 100 Miles for Natalie—a 24-hour, 100-mile run on a 10 mile loop in Northeast Philadelphia. In addition to raising funds for Thomson’s sister-in-law, the event will honor the memory of Adamksi’s late mother-in-law, Joann Brunkel, by raising funds for Legacy of Hope’s Emergency Patient Support network. Only two of the three have completed 100 milers before—Thomson and Adamski. Thomson shares “It’s been several years since we did our respective 100s. McBride hasn’t done one yet, but he does distance running. I know we can do this. We’re mentally tougher now than we were in our mid twenties, we take better care of ourselves, we have a personal connection to cancer.”

The three of them initially figured 100 Miles for Natalie was going to be a makeshift fundraiser, maybe a GoFundMe page. But after some research, they found Legacy of Hope; “we knew right away this is who we need to link up with. We loved what we saw Legacy of Hope doing, and knew that could help us make a bigger impact; so we reached out to Mike Rowe and set things up.”

The story of how Thomson got his fitness to the point where he can do these challenges is an inspiring one. Hailing from Northeast Philly’s Wissinoming neighborhood, he grew up with a voracious appetite for basketball. He played on the varsity squad all four of his years at North Catholic, and was two years deep as a starter at Manor Junior College, when his hoop dreams shattered, along with his left humerus, in a freak arm-wrestling accident one Christmas night. Nine hours of reconstructive surgery, an 11-inch titanium rod, and nine screws later—along with nearly a year spent regaining full range of motion and strength—Thomson had unknowingly started down a new life path. He was laser focused on rehabilitating his arm so he could rejoin his basketball team. But doubts about whether he’d be able to play again made scholarship money unlikely; and ultimately, he didn’t return. However, his rehab wasn’t a total loss.

Thomson explains that he relentlessly asked his physical therapist questions during rehab. “I wanted to know how the exercises worked, how they correlated with the anatomy and physiology; my physical therapist (PT) told me that I always asked really good questions—that I had a knack for this stuff. She suggested that I become a PT. But I told her I don’t want to be a PT. They have all the patience in the world—watching someone squeeze a ball for three hours. I can’t do that.” What he did do, however, was to follow up on her guidance and enrolled at NPTI (National Personal Trainers Institute), got credits for athletic training and became a certified nutritionist. Soon after, he landed a solid gig at the Aquatic Fitness Center in the Northeast, but quickly tired of working for someone else and decided to go out on his own and start No Limit Gym.

Without a background in business, Thomson went through a lot of trial and error. But he did the work, connected the dots, drew upon his resources and laid a solid foundation for his gym. Critical to that success was a conversation Thomson had with one of his trainers early on, where the two set the goal of outgrowing their 1000 square foot gym space within six months. “Three months later we had over a hundred clients, one-on-one personal trainers and a new location four times the square footage of our original space. We’d started out as a CrossFit gym, eventually dropped the affiliate and rebranded ourselves. The result? A loyal and growing clientele and a dedicated coaching staff that have kept No Limit Gym open for over 11 years now. If it wasn’t for them, we’d never have stayed open.” says Thomson.

Thomson cites Michael Jordan as a singular source of inspiration for guidance both when he was building the foundation for No Limit Gym, and also for 100 Miles for Natalie. “There was no gray area with MJ. He did everything in his power to inspire people to be better than they were. Okay. His thing was, I can’t understand why you guys don’t wanna work as hard as I do. I’m not better than anybody. I just work harder than everybody.” True to that sentiment, No Limit Gym has a 5am “breakfast club”, modeled after Jordan’s efforts to help his teammates dig deeper. “I love his mindset of ‘You’re either gonna put in the work to improve or you’re not; I’m no different from you, I just get up earlier and put the extra work in. I stay up later and put the extra work in.’”

Extra work is something Thomson, Adamski and McBride created for themselves when they committed to 100 Miles for Natalie. Barring debilitating physical injury, the challenge is predominantly mental. Thomson shares this vignette about the hardest part of his first 100 mile run:

“It’s the middle of the night, you’re on mile 60, last man standing. Your buddy tapped out at mile 55 with multiple half-dollar-sized blisters on his feet because he could no longer put any weight on them. The other guy is long gone, because he only signed up to run 30. You’ve got a devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other having a heated, Wimbledon style, volley—trying to win the point to sway you to their side. The devil’s saying, “You’ve already run farther than you ever have; you’re the only one left out here…Just stop! Get in the support car and go home and get some rest.” Then the angel chimes in….“ Sean, you’re still on pace. You don’t have to try to keep up with anybody. You don’t have to please anybody. Just go out and do your thing. If you stop right now with nothing physically wrong with you, if you just get in the car and quit, you’re gonna wake up tomorrow with the biggest regrets! Keep going, keep going, keep going!” You find a favorite song in your two hour playlist, and put that sucker on repeat, 20 times in a row. You keep going; you finish. You’re thankful that you ignored the whining little voice in your head telling you “this is too far!””

We hope Team 100 for Natalie taps into that same mental fortitude for the full 24 hours after their running shoes hit the road on October 8th. There seems little doubt they’ll achieve this, given the candor with which Thomson speaks about his motives for doing the challenge. “Talking to Natalie about what she’s going through, you feel helpless. You can only call so many times and say everything’s gonna be okay. She’s getting chemo, feeling lethargic and nauseous. She’s going through hell. She’s a single mom of three, waking up everyday and still doing the mom job—the hardest job in the world. That pushed me to do this. I can put my body through hell for 24 hours. That’s nowhere near chemo, but I think it shows Natalie we’re with her. We know you’ve been going through hell, we can at least do it for one day non-stop to help you out, and to show you that we have a lot of people behind you in spirit.”

If you’d like to support the efforts of this extraordinarily committed crew, please donate at 100 Miles for Natalie. If you’d like to go one better, you can register to run with the crew in one of the 12 two-hour time slots between 5am 10/8 and 5am 10/9 (keep in mind that Thomson, Adamksi and McBride would love your company and motivation during hardest part of any 24 hour challenge: between midnight and 6am

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Michele Redrow

Michele is a Director on the Legacy of Hope board and also serves on the Executive Committee.

Gina Mancuso

Gina’s experience as the very successful co-owner of CoreFitness, LLC coupled with her expertise in planning special events makes her the perfect Vice President for Legacy of Hope. With energy, passion, and drive that makes her seem superhuman, Gina’s connection to our mission is a personal one.

“Both my father and my dear childhood friend were diagnosed with cancer within 3 months of one another. They were surrounded and supported by friends and family throughout their battle and until their passing. No one should suffer through a diagnosis alone and, without Legacy of Hope, some people would do just that.”

greg garber

Greg Garber is the director of Oncology Support Services at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.

dr. kevin kelly

Dr. Kevin Kelly leads Legacy of Hope’s Scientific Review Board to seek out and support the most promising cancer research in Philadelphia using a merit-based system.  He is Jefferson’s Director of Solid Tumor Oncology.

David April

David is the founder of the Fishtown Beer Runners, an organization with chapters all over the world based here in Philadelphia.

joseph ruggieri, jr

Education: Bachelor’s of Science from West Chester University in Management and Finance

Bio: As a member of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.’s upper management team, Joseph brings a wealth of knowledge regarding finances, management, team-building and planning to the Legacy of Hope board. Joseph linked up with Michael, our President, and Wells Fargo began supporting Legacy of Hope annually.

“My father passed away from what started as Colon Cancer in 2015. Cancer is horrible and if there is something I can do to help others impacted I would want to be a part of it.”

mary chicorelli

Professional:  Mary is a certified city planner for Philadelphia, a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association as well as the Philadelphia Bar Association, and the Pro Bono Honor Roll First Judicial District of Philadelphia.

Bio: Mary’s insight into the legal world is invaluable to Legacy of Hope, both in keeping our daily operations moving fluidly as well as making connections for our patients and their families when needed.

“Michael reached out to me about 2 years ago through mutual friends. We worked together to help a woman with stage 4 cancer get her electricity turned back on after it was shut off during the winter. I’ve been 100% supportive of Mike’s vision since then.”

Kimberly S. Reed

An award winning international speaker, author, corporate trainer and diversity, equality and inclusion executive, nationally recognized thought leader, expert, strategist and advisor to some of the world’s most influential organizations in global professional services, health care, financial services, consumer products and pharmaceutical industries.

Kimberly is a seasoned leader in transforming organizations into high-performing enterprises and challenging leaders to live without limits, with more than 20 years of HR, talent acquisition, and diversity & inclusion experience; successfully turning around troubled diversity practices by designing, building, leading, and shaping high-performing cultures at global organizations with robust strategies, global employee development programs and enterprise-wide initiatives that have increased revenue growth and organizational brand eminence.

Dr. Claudia Capparelli, PhD

Affiliations: Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center

Education: PhD, University of Calabria, Cosenza, Italy – 2011

Focus & Impact:  Focus on the role of the SOX10 transcription factor with regard to tumor cell heterogeneity and plasticity across multiple genotypes in melanoma. Investigating how SOX10 plasticity/heterogeneity affects the response to MEKi and anti-ErbB3 combinations in WT BRAF melanoma patients. 

Publications: Publications Link

Honors & Awards:

  • Legacy of Hope Merit Award

  • Outrun the Sun Melanoma Research Scholar Award

  • Unical Fellowship Visiting Scholar

  • International Pigment Cell Conference Travel Award

  • Best Poster Presentation, Ninth Annual Jefferson Post-doctoral Research

  • INPDAP Fellowship for Student Merit 

  • University of Calabria Fellowships for Student Merit 

Bryan Lathrop

Bio Coming Soon

Maree Lavo

Bio Coming Soon

Carol Sollenberger

Bio Coming Soon

Rebecca Blinn

Bio Coming Soon

Nia Andrews

Bio Coming Soon

Dr. Qing Chen, M.D., Ph.D.

Affiliations: The Wistar Institute, The Chen Laboratory, University of Maryland

Education: PhD,Immunology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, State University of New York at Buffalo (Dean’s Award for outstanding dissertation) – 2006

Focus & Impact:  Focus is on the molecular mechanisms of brain metastasis originating from primary tumors like breast cancer, and the interplay between cancer cells and the stromal cells that populate the brain microenvironment. 

Publications: Publications Link

Honors & Awards​:

  • Legacy of Hope Merit Award

  • Jayne Koskinas Ted Giovanis Foundation for Health and Policy Award

  • Susan G. Komen, CCR Basic/Translational and Clinical application

  • The V Foundation for Cancer Research Award

  • Dissertation Research Award, Susan Komen Breast Cancer Foundation 

Michael Rowe

Awards:

Volatile Media Management’s Mover, Shaker, Changemaker Award – February 2017

Miles Mack Community Services & Leadership Honorable Mention – 2016 TJUH Emergency Department Technician of the Year, Physicians Choice Award – 2015

TJUH Emergency Department Technician of the Year, Physicians Choice Award – 2014

Bio:

With his free time so limited, Michael manages to fuse his work with his other passion: running. Whether it is with the Fishtown Beer Runners, our own Team Relentless Hope, or his closest friends, Michael can often be spotted on the streets of Philadelphia keeping himself fit and active.