Susan Hurley’s close friend Gary Resnick liked to tell her that he had nine lives. The retired stock broker truly had managed to survive things that others many others did not. On September 11th, 2001, he escaped and ran from the twin towers after the terrorist attacks. Later, he was diagnosed with stage III pancreatic cancer. “Because he was a runner, he was a fighter,” Susan explains. “Being a runner gave him that advantage to fight that much harder. Running gave him that competitive feeling of wanting to beat his cancer. He wanted to do better, and to prove himself.”
Susan and Gary met on New Year’s Day at a road race. He shared his story with her and the two became fast friends. Gary underwent chemotherapy as part of his treatment for pancreatic cancer, and he often ran to and from his treatments. Susan says, “I strongly believe that running kept him going. It kept his spirit alive. Eventually, pancreatic cancer got the best of him but the running really helped him to survive for a long time.”
Gary’s positive spirit made a strong impression on Susan. “Gary just loved everybody and everyone gravitated to Gary.” Gary was in his 40s with three young children when he and Susan met. “Running gave him the joy that he needed when he was sick,” Susan continues. “He would call me every day and tell me how many miles he ran. It gave me such joy to listen to him. He had such pride that he was able to beat that situation on that day. It is something that I will never, ever forget.”
Susan Hurley was in between jobs and trying to figure out what her purpose in life was when she started her company CharityTeams. She recognized that there were a lot of small nonprofits who were trying to establish charity running teams but who often did not have the manpower to oversee the teams. The Boston area resident started off with one nonprofit team at the Boston Marathon in her first year. She currently oversees 320 runners for the Boston Marathon alone and has branched out to the Marine Corps Marathon, the New York City Marathon, the Falmouth Road race, and the Ironman Augusta, among others.
Susan has run several marathons, including a string of Boston’s. She has also competed in two Ironman Triathlons, including the world championships in Kona. Her background as an athlete, personal trainer, and her work in sports marketing helped her transition into her career leading charity running teams. She says, “I am so lucky to do what I do. I am so blessed. I pinch myself at times and wonder ‘How did I get so lucky to work with these people who are so passionate?’”
Susan is inspired by her runners and the incredible work that they put in to both their running and their fundraising. “It is a journey that changes their lives. Like the saying goes, ‘The more you give, the more you receive’. It is amazing to see these people give and change their lives. In a case like pancreatic cancer, running for a charity gives a lot of joy. For the son or daughter of someone with pancreatic cancer, it gives them an outlet. They feel empowered by running and fundraising.”
It was through Gary that Susan was introduced to Project Purple founder Dino Verrelli. Unfortunately, pancreatic cancer has touched Susan’s life more than one time. Her brother-in-law is currently fighting the illness and her fiancé’s father passed away as a result of it years ago. She recognizes that pancreatic cancer is an illness that is in desperate need of funding. “There are so many people in the prime of their lives that have pancreatic cancer. The part that is gut-wrenching for me is I see all of the money that goes to cancer and yet there is no test or effective treatments for pancreatic cancer.”
Susan leads the Project Purple Boston Marathon team. Her friendship with Gary and her knowledge of how devastating pancreatic cancer is helps to drive her passion for the Project Purple team. “I think of all of the lessons he taught other people and the impressions he left on people. You just have to keep fighting. You don’t know what the next day is going to bring but you always have to be ready. You always have to be a fighter.” Gary had a saying, “For the tenacious, no road is impassable”. When Gary and Susan ran the Boston marathon together, they both wore shirts with that saying in Latin. “He really believe it. He believed that if he was going to fight, he was going to beat this thing,” Susan says.
Yet Susan is haunted by her final memories of her friend Gary. He had come to Washington DC to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll half-marathon. She reached out to him for a get together, but he did not want to see Susan because the chemo had taken a toll upon his looks and he felt self-conscious about it. “It broke my heart. I begged to see him,” Susan recalls. Shortly thereafter, he went into hospice. He passed away in May of 2012 at the age of 50. “It haunts me that I did not get to see him”, Susan says.
Devastated by the loss of her friend Gary, Susan had an unusual experience after his passing. She explains, “Immediately after Gary died, he had a conversation with me when I was out running. It might sound a little crazy; but it’s as clear as day. It was like he snuck up behind me. I remember it vividly. It was for me an exchange with him about his dying and I cried as I ran about the fact he left this earth and pancreatic cancer took his life so horribly and at such a young age with an beautiful family. He was consoling of me and convincing as he told me he had tried his best to fight. Gary is someone I consistently think about when I run when things get challenging. Anyone who knew him, understood what a blessing he was and a trailblazer for those with this disease. Despite him being a Yankee fan, he was loved so much by his Boston friends and always will be loved through running here.”
Through her ongoing partnership with CharityTeams and Project Purple, Susan is able to help fight pancreatic cancer and honor her dear friend, Gary, who fought so hard and was lost too soon.
Runners interested in applying for the Project Purple Boston Marathon and running with Susan Hurley can apply here:
Learn more about CharityTeams here: