23 Legacy Runners to Participate in 40th AACR Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon

They have been dubbed the Philly 23. They’re the 19 men and four women who have finished all 39 editions of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon, formerly known as the Philadelphia Distance Run. Come September 17, they plan on making it 40 for 40.

Here’s a look at the legacy runners.

  • Al Worthington Al Worthington

    Al Worthington

    Home: Glenside, PA
    Age: 65
    Career: Health information management executive
    Favorite Moment: “In the early ’80s, one of the runners who placed in the top five came back on the course and encouraged me. I ran my PR, 1:23:45. I had joined a running club, the New Freedom Striders. It was predominantly a group of black men, and I’m not black. For me, it was an amazing cultural experience to be brought into this group of guys. To this day, I dream of getting up at 7 a.m. with this group of guys and going out on a long run.”
  • Bob Fortunato Bob Fortunato

    Bob Fortunato

    Home: Philadelphia, PA
    Age: 68
    Career: Retail management
    Favorite Moment: “Crossing the finish line in 2012 because nine months earlier I had triple-bypass, open-heart surgery. My main goal (after the surgery) was to make it back to the race so I wouldn’t break the streak. When I finished the race, I said, ‘Well, I’ve got another one. Hopefully I’ll make it to 40.’ And I did.”
  • David Kaslow David Kaslow

    David Kaslow

    Home: Berwyn, PA
    Age: 74
    Career: Aerospace engineer
    Favorite Moment: “One of the races, I think it was the early ’90s, it rained from start to finish. I was standing in the parking garage near the start of the race, asking myself, ‘Do I really want to do this?’ I saw enough other people going out that I said, ‘If they’re going to run in this, I’ll run, too.’ I don’t think it registered at the time I had a streak going. You were going squish-squish from start to finish. Forty’s a nice round number. The next time it’s rainy and cold, I’ll probably skip that one.”
  • Dennis Mellish Dennis Mellish

    Dennis Mellish

    Home: Lansdale, PA
    Age: 66
    Career: High school social studies teacher
    Favorite Moment: “You tend to remember your best and worst times. My PR came in the late ’70s or early ’80s. It was 1:14:05. I had been a distance runner in college. I was teaching in high school at the time, plus coaching the cross country and track team. It helps you identify with the kids. It was one of those races where you go, ‘Wow!’ It didn’t feel that hard. It was just one of those days you don’t get very often.”
  • Don Blender Don Blender

    Don Blender

    Home: Philadelphia, PA
    Age: 59
    Career: Sales
    Favorite Moment: “I think it was three years ago, both my daughters, Allison and Laura, ran with me for the first time. They started before me, and what was special is I caught them at about Mile 12. I ran the final mile with them. I was running on pure adrenaline. This body was pretty much gone. It was exhilarating.”
  • Gary Gordon Gary Gordon

    Gary Gordon

    Home: Philadelphia, PA
    Age: 71
    Career: Podiatrist
    Favorite Moment: “After undergoing prostate surgery on Aug. 9, this year’s race will be particularly meaningful. I ran for the first time since the surgery the day before Labor Day. One mile. I’m going to try to run the half marathon. I know I’m going to have to walk some, but I like the challenge of running.” Asked what it will be like to keep the streak intact, Gordon said, “I will be thrilled, absolutely thrilled.”
  • Gerald Mullen Gerald Mullen

    Gerald Mullen

    Home: Philadelphia, PA
    Age: 68
    Career: Verizon technician
    Favorite Moment: “In 2001, right after 9/11, Mark Fite (another legacy runner) brought a small American flag. He ran with the Olympic torch back in 1984. He brought that torch with him, stuck the American flag in the torch and carried it throughout the half marathon. I’ll always remember that. It was uplifting.”
  • Glenn Tighe Glenn Tighe

    Glenn Tighe

    Home: Maple Shade, NJ
    Age: 63
    Career: Software developer
    Favorite Moment: “The 2001 race came five days after the 9/11 attacks. There was a chance we were going to postpone the event, but we went ahead with it. The national anthem, it was moving. I was proud we were carrying on and not hiding from the terrorists. We were out there trying to live our lives like we’ve always done. We had to move on.”
  • Howard Bernard Howard Bernard

    Howard Bernard

    Home: Long Beach, NJ
    Age: 80
    Career: Attorney/CPA
    Favorite Moment: “I went to the first Philadelphia Distance Run, not knowing it was the first. Years later, I got a letter, congratulating me on being a 10-year runner. That was the impetus to do them all.”
  • Joshua Chong Joshua Chong

    Joshua Chong

    Home: Lansdale, PA
    Age: 74
    Career: Organic chemist
    Favorite Moment: “In the mid-90s, I ran my fastest, a 1:32. It was one of those days you were running fast. You felt good. You didn’t feel tired. A friend told me if you’re not throwing up at the finish line, you haven’t pushed your hardest. Based on that, I didn’t push my hardest.”
  • Larry Waldman Larry Waldman

    Larry Waldman

    Home: Newtown, PA
    Age: 64
    Career: Engineer
    Favorite Moment: “I ran my personal best in 1982, 1 hour, 20 minutes. I was hoping to break 1:20 but hit it right on the nose. It was my day. Things just clicked.”
  • Lorraine Cephus Lorraine Cephus

    Lorraine Cephus

    Home: Cherry Hill, NJ
    Age: 87
    Career: Wife, mother, grandmother
    Favorite Moment: “I used to run in high school, and I liked the run. I like the exercise. I like to go outside. I’m really not a house person.”
  • Mark Fite Mark Fite

    Mark Fite

    Home: Ivyland, PA
    Age: 66
    Career: Landscape contractor
    Favorite Moment: “I liked it when we finished in Center City near Love Park. People were ringing bells, clapping, cheering. Once you got around the last circle you could see the finish. If you had anything left, it was all or nothing at that point.”
  • Mary Pat Ezzo Mary Pat Ezzo

    Mary Pat Ezzo

    Home: Richboro, PA
    Age: 59
    Career: Veterinarian
    Favorite Moment: “I think it’s going to be this one.” Ezzo broke her left leg herding sheep last spring. She raises dogs for competition, including 10 border collies. “The sheep, they get stupid occasionally and the flock charged me. One hit me square in the tibia and cracked it with its head. It hurt about as much as when my appendix ruptured.” Regarding the streak that soon hits 40s, Ezzo said, “It shows what kind of grit and determination the 23 of us have.”
  • Michael Davis Michael Davis

    Michael Davis

    Home: Moorestown, NJ
    Age: 75
    Career: Pharmaceutical marketing
    Favorite Moment: “Last November I went in for what I thought was a routine urology procedure. But it’s taken the life out of me. I can barely walk anymore. I’m going to try to walk the race. I’m going to try to make it to 40 years. This one will be the most memorable.”
  • Nancy English Nancy English

    Nancy English

    Home: Swarthmore, PA
    Age: 70
    Career: Environment health and safety
    Favorite Moment: “The streak keeps me motivated to continue running. There’s only four women who have done all 39. It’s an excuse to get together with them, celebrate that we’re all still moving. We talk about our aches and pain and replaced body parts.”
  • Peter Longstreth Peter Longstreth

    Peter Longstreth

    Home: Philadelphia, PA
    Age: 72
    Career: Banking/real estate
    Favorite Moment: “I snapped a quadriceps tendon on Jan. 3, 2003, slipping on some ice. I was operated on one week later and I guess there were some serious questions whether I’d be able to do the race, but I had nine months to rehab and it worked out. This race is one of several things in my life I make room for regardless of what the alternatives might be.”
  • Prince Knight Prince Knight

    Prince Knight

    Home: Bradenton, FL
    Age: 67
    Career: IT project manager
    Favorite Moment: “The most compelling year was 2001, the year of 9/11. Six to 10 people who registered for the race were killed in the terrorist attacks. It was very emotional. In addition to the national Anthem, we sang God Bless America. There were a lot of flags that year. Men were crying, everyone was crying.”
  • Robert Mulhearn Robert Mulhearn

    Robert Mulhearn

    Home: Media, PA
    Age: 63
    Career: Consultant
    Favorite Moment: “Back in the early years, organizers started honoring the legacy runners by having dinner with the elite runners the night before the race. I didn’t really know who a lot of them were. But I remember sitting at a table with this young woman. I think she was from Ukraine. Definitely Eastern Europe. She was very modest, self-deprecating. It was nice.”
  • Rory McManus Rory McManus

    Rory McManus

    Home: Springfield, PA
    Age: 69
    Career: Naval officer, technical consultant
    Favorite Moment: “One year I ran with a partially healed broken right ankle. I suffered a freak injury about a month before the race, slipping on the beach at the Jersey Shore. I would say I’ve run injured about 20 percent of the time. I ran the Boston Marathon with two kidney stones.” Asked what it is that draws him to running, McManus joked, “It feels so good when you stop. Some people go to church. My cathedral is the great outdoors.”
  • Stan Cooper Stan Cooper

    Stan Cooper

    Home: Cherry Hill, NJ
    Age: 58
    Career: Certified Financial Planner
    Favorite Moment: “I was on the race committee back in 2001, and it was one of the first major events after 9/11. We decided to go ahead with the race. I’m running, I look around and I’m thinking, ‘If we don’t put on the race, then the sons of bitches have won. They changed our life.’ That was a real proud decision. We made a tough one, and we made the right one.”
  • Tina Johnson Tina Johnson

    Tina Johnson

    Home: Winter Garden, FL
    Age: 71
    Career: Middle school PE/Health teacher
    Favorite Moment: “Every year I show up to the race, the legacy runners ask, ‘What did you have fixed this year?’” Johnson has had both hips and knees replaced. “I’m the bionic person. The last 10 years, we’re just doing the race to be stubborn.”
  • Vincent Cloud Vincent Cloud

    Vincent Cloud

    Home: Palm Beach, FL
    Age: 70
    Career: Financial services
    Favorite Moment: “About 10 years ago I had prostate cancer, then developed a MRSA infection. I was pretty close to exiting this world, but I recovered. I put together a will and said if I passed away I wanted my ashes spread in the Schuykill River. When I crossed the finish line, it was amazing. I wasn’t going to miss that race come hell or high water.”