Endurance Test: Overcoming Obstacles in the Run to Support TargetCancer

Mar 9, 2017 | Patient Stories

By Karen Dempsey, TargetCancer Foundation Advocacy Council Member

How do you push through injury, illness, and a bitter cold winter to train for your first marathon?

For Martin Arts, the answer is straightforward: He promised he’d do it.

The story begins with a vacation friendship struck up on Martha’s Vineyard several years ago. Martin, his wife Genevieve Rossignol and their daughters, Lola and Emilie, were visiting the island when Lola hit it off with a boy named Luca on Lucy Vincent Beach. Martin’s wife Genevieve felt the same pull toward Luca’s mother, Kristen, and the families’ relationship continued well beyond that summer.

“We have a daughter the same age as Luca and they instantly connected,” said Martin. “Sometimes you meet people on vacation and keep in touch at first but it fades away. With Kristen and Luca, the friendship grew. We just love them.”

As the Arts-Rossignol family got close to the Palma-Poths, they learned about TargetCancer Foundation, the organization Kristen’s husband, Paul, founded before his 2009 death from cholangiocarcinoma. Martin and Genevieve followed the foundation’s progress on social media, and while they lived too far away to attend events, they contributed blocks of Montreal Canadiens tickets for the organization’s annual Gala. But they both wanted to do something more.

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“It’s always something that’s been on my list—the goal of running a marathon,” Martin said. The personal goal, combined with the approach of his fortieth birthday, a transition out of small-business ownership, and the family’s steady friendship and with Kristen and Luca brought him to the TargetCancer team.

Martin has never really been a distance runner. He ran cross country in high school and hit the pavement occasionally as part of keeping in shape, but hadn’t come anywhere close to 26.2 when he committed to the marathon. Once he’d made the decision, he threw himself into the dual task of training and fundraising. But just six weeks in, hip pain — traced to his sciatic nerve — put the brakes on his progress. Then a particularly nasty virus set him back even further.

“It’s not been easy,” Martin says, in a moment of understatement, but he is laughing.

Behind Martin’s matter-of-fact attitude, he has accumulated a community, from various points in his life, who’ve come together to back him up in a host of different ways.

His daughters — Lola is now 10 and Emilie 16 — help distract him from his pain. Genevieve helps him stay on a training-friendly diet and co-manages the impressive array of fundraisers they’ve organized so far. And the connections Martin’s made throughout his life—from growing up in Scarborough, Ontario, to running a business, to his role as a parent and neighbor—have become a collective of friends who’ve helped him push on by enthusiastically backing his fundraising events.

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The array of events includes a hair styling day sponsored by a friend at her salon, an indoor trampoline day, comedy nights in Toronto and Montreal, and hopefully, a “bubble soccer” tournament shortly after the marathon.

As for Martin, he is back on the road and full-on sprinting toward the finish line.

“It’s almost symbolic at a time of change when I am looking for new challenges, new goals,” he said. “We’re reevaluating where we want to go in life and what we want our footprint to be. This is a very positive step towards me getting there. Once I made the commitment, it made it real. It’s not as if you can say I’ll run the next one – you’re running this one. It’s a firm commitment that you can’t turn back from.”

You can support Martin’s Marathon run by visiting his fundraising page here.