Bret Parker has almost done it all.
From completing seven marathons on seven continents in seven days in the World Marathon Challenge, to vast bike treks that span hundreds of miles and just about everything in between, the 53-year-old who splits time between New York City and Noyac continues to challenge himself physically, mentally and emotionally.
Parker’s latest endeavor will be running the Boston and New York City marathons back to back. The Boston Marathon is up first on October 11, with New York City just under a full month later on November 7. The 125th Boston Marathon, originally scheduled for April 19, Patriots’ Day, of this year, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing such a feat to be done.
Of course, what’s all the more amazing about Parker’s ability to do such feats is the fact that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 14 years ago. It wasn’t too long after that when Parker joined Team Fox, a grassroots community fundraising program for the The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, which is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease through an aggressively funded research agenda and to ensure the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson’s.
Parker, a married father of two who is executive director of the New York City Bar Association, is on the Patient Council of The Michael J. Fox Foundation and likes to lead by example.
“I try to do something as exciting as seven marathons, seven continents, seven days, but that may have raised the bar a little too high,” Parker said. “I’ve done the New York City Marathon a bunch of times but I’ve never done Boston. I thought, while I can still run, I can do these more compelling races, and with it being the 50th anniversary of the New York City Marathon, I ran my first New York City Marathon 25 years ago in 1996. That all has some sort of meaning and symbolism to it.”
Parker has been training when he can, although that has been hampered a bit recently; just a few weeks ago he needed to get a cortisone shot in one of his hips. But Parker continues to battle on with help from one of his best friends, David Samson, former president of the Miami Marlins professional baseball club who is now an analyst and podcaster for CBS Sports.
“I’m not in as good of shape as I would like, and Parkinson’s has a little bit to do with that, but I do these run/walk combinations. I have to sort of pace myself because if I run a whole marathon I’ll knock myself out for New York a month later,” Parker explained. “The longest run I’ve done is a 15-miler, which is great, but it’s still 11 miles less than a marathon, so I’ll try and do another long run and sort of gut out the last distance.”
Samson has been training with Bret since 1996. They have ran in over 10 marathons together. Samson called Parker a reliable training partner.
”I am always motivated simply by watching him accomplish his goals, one mile at a time,” he said. “Bret is an inspiration. He has dedicated his life to raising money and awareness to help the Michael J. Fox Foundation find a cure for Parkinson’s. Each year, he challenges himself to do a physically demanding event. His insatiable desire to do epic shit never wanes. No matter the challenge. Running Boston and New York Marathon within four weeks is going to be tough. But, he will cross the finish line — twice.”
Since his diagnosis 14 years ago, Parker has helped raise over $700,000 for Parkinson’s research through Team Fox. As of Monday afternoon, Parker has raised $37,800 during his latest endeavor and hopes to raise $50,000 by the time he starts running in Boston.
“Despite the excellent progress on research (two of the drugs I take now were made available only in the past few years), there’s still no cure, and treatments are effective with only mixed success. So once again, I’m turning to you for support and inspiration,” Parker wrote on his fundraising website. “I’m continuing to battle the disease and remain optimistic, but the symptoms continue to worsen a little bit at a time. Five million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s disease — a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder. In the United States, 60,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year alone. When you give today, 100 percent of Team Fox proceeds go straight to MJFF research programs.”
For more information on Team Fox, the Michael J. Fox Foundation and to donate, go to fundraise.michaeljfox.org/tcs-nyc-marathon-2021/bretparker?.