Watertown scientist readies for 100-Mile Ultramarathon

Source: http://watertown.wickedlocal.com/article/20160310/NEWS/160319354

By: Dana Forsythe

If you ran the Boston Marathon, only to turn around and run back towards the start in Hopkinton, you’d still be short almost 48 miles of what it takes to run an ultramarathon. This summer, Watertown scientist Thomas Tan will compete in the Leadville Trail 100-Mile Ultramarathon in Colorado, supporting the Lupus Foundation of America.

Tan is trying to raise $10,000 for the Lupus Foundation to compete in the race in August. As of Thursday, he had raised just over $2,400. This week, the Watertown TAB spoke with Tan about training for the intense race and finding a cure for lupus.

What's your connection to Watertown? 

I work at a biotech company called FORMA Therapeutics in Watertown. I’m a scientist there and I manage a group immersed in both cancer and immunology research to discover and develop novel medicines for treatment of cancer and other grievous diseases.

Tell us about why you’re running this race.

I am participating in the Leadville Trail 100-Mile Ultramarathon on August 20-21 to help raise awareness and funds for the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA). I got involved through my volunteer work at the LFA. I chose to support LFA because lupus is a relatively unknown illness because it is rare. Lupus is a debilitating disease in which the immune system uncharacteristically attacks the patient’s own tissues and organs. There is no cure for lupus, which can be fatal.

Image Source: Thomas Tan

How has training been going?

I work a lot and finding time to train for the race is a challenge for me. So, I participate in local marathons and 50-km ultramarathons on the weekends as my long training runs. On weekdays, I do cross training at the Boston Sports Club on Arsenal St. Once I build up my mileage and endurance, my plan is to run a couple of 50-mile and 100-km mountain ultramarathons to build my confidence. The Leadville 100 is run on extreme Colorado Rockies terrain, from elevations of 9,200 to 12,600 feet. Ideally, I should train at altitude as much as possible. But we are in sea-level land here in Massachusetts

What does running and finishing a race this big mean to you?

To me, completing Leadville 100 is a metaphor in that finding a cure for any disease is not a sprint. Not even a marathon. Drug discovery is a very long and arduous race with significant and unpredictable hurdles. In some ways, the Leadville 100 Ultramarathon is symbolic of the perseverance, courage and patience which one needs to fight lupus. Lupus represents an enormous challenge because the need for medical interventions is so great. That’s how I see Leadville 100. And that’s a challenge I want to take on.

Anything else you'd like to add?

I want the general public to know that drug discovery and development can take many years and is unpredictable, which is why it's important to consider other ways to impact patient lives. I believe raising awareness and engaging the public is another important way to make an impact on research priorities, while inspiring the next generation of healthcare providers to tackle unmet medical needs. Please visit my website and consider a donation: http://lupus.donorpages.com/Raise4Lupus/ThomasTan/