This story was saved from the August 25, 1999

GT OnLine

Cancer Claims Life of avid runner

By Lee Jenkins/The Gazette
Story editor Jim O’Connell; headline by Jo Ann Barrow

Carl McDaniel starred in the last Pikes Peak Marathon of his life without even taking a step.

Before Sunday’s race more than 1,000 competitors and fans stood at the base of the mountain, chanting the name of the man who made the marathon run for 20 years: “Carl! Carl!”

“So loud he can hear us at Pikes Peak Hospice,” urged race director Dave Zehrer. And they yelled some more.

One day later — nearly a year after he was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas — Carl McDaniel, 55, died at the hospice he had moved into a week earlier. He is survived by his wife, Ruby; his sister, Rosalie; his 26-hyear-old son, Robert; and his 18-year-old daughter, Michelle.

Friends thought his race against cancer was coming to an end last month. But they helped carry him to the finish as Carl lived with the understanding that doctors could do nothing to save him.

“For the last six weeks, it looked lie he was going to die,” said Zehrer, who took over as race director this year. “Family had been called, the minister had been called, a lawyer was done there getting things singed.”

None of that mattered to someone who was given three months to live in September and responded by saying, “I hate hearing odds.”

“Unequivocally, he was a person who lived with an iron will and strength of character,” said his so , Robert. “That defined him more than anything.”

Three weeks ago, Carl was given a lifetime achievement award for his work with the marathon, “so he could enjoy it,” Zehrer said.

No one expected him to be alive for the presentation on Friday. And certainly no one expected him to be there. Carl tried to wean himself off medication Wednesday night to attend the ceremony, but the pain was too much for even him to fight.

Still, from a bed covered in tubes and blankets, Carl kept tabs on the race.

Marathoner and friend Matt Carpenter called Saturday morning to tell him results of the Pikes Peak Ascent. On the other end, Carl’s voice came alive.

“He was excited about it,” said Carpenter. “The race was such a big part of his life. I don’t think it’s stretching too far to say that it’s not coincidence ” that as soon as the race went by, he passed away.”

Carl was a real estate agent by trade, a runner by nature — the type to ignore the hurt and “get down the road,” as he liked to say.

“He was someone who was marginally talented that loved it so much that he excelled at it,” said Robert McDaniel. “It was one of the most consuming passions of his life.”

Carl prided himself on his sprint. “Do everything you can while you can,” he said.

His final days were spent with business associates, family members and former athletes whom he coached in his spare time at Coronado High School, where there is now a scholarship in his honor.

Visitors saw someone who didn’t look like he could run up Pikes Peak, but still sounded like the man who inspired them.

Carl was born prematurely in Bloomfield, N.M., and went on to become the first of his family to attend college. He lost part of his right arm in an accident with heavy equipment and later founded his own company, ran his own race, coached his own cross-country team.

“He was very sincere, loved people,” said Ruby McDaniel. “I am very surprised with all the response, people saying he’s so great. I don’t know what he did.”

She laughed and handed the phone to another family member, with another memory and another smile.

Members of the racing community will remember Carl by a photograph. Exhausted, ecstatic, he’s just run the marathon he fell in love with 28 years ago, when he moved to Colorado Springs.

His knee is bleeding. His face is anguished. His happiness is obvious to everyone.

He is crossing the finish line.

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