I think it’s easy to take for granted the people who have influenced you along the way. Parents, teachers, coaches, friends, mentors. This marathon is great opportunity for me do something meaningful for Chris and to show him how much his support has meant to me.
CLEVELAND — Le Roy native and Notre Dame High School graduate Mike Scanlan has held a productive life, he has seen many places, he has met many faces.
He was a member of the 2001 Class D New York State champion basketball team — albeit, in his own words, not a huge contributing factor — while he was also on the golf team.
He went on to John Carroll University and earned a degree in communications, he worked with the Buffalo Bills and had a longtime stint with the LPGA. He would go on to IMG before finding himself back at his alma mater.
The travels have been long and winding, but now he is taking the opportunity to do something for one of those people that he met along the way that has made a tremendous impact on his life in many ways.
This Saturday, in his hometown of Cleveland, Scanlan will be running a marathon for his great friend and mentor Chris Wenzler, who is suffering from an incurable form of cancer.
“For the last two-and-a-half years, Chris has been battling multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer that attacks plasma cells,” Scanlan said. “He has undergone multiple chemotherapy and mitigation treatments to keep the disease at bay. Every day is a test for him. Through it all, his work ethic and selflessness has never wavered.”
Scanlan met Wenzler at JCU, where he has been the sports information director for 30 years.
“He helped to shape me as a person and gave me the nudge I needed to apply to the Buffalo Bills. He helped me launch my career,” Scanlan said.
On Saturday Scanlan will be running his first ever marathon, that will start at Wenzler’s house in on the east side of Cleveland in University Heights across the street from John Carroll, and will end at Scanlan’s house in Bay Village in the west suburbs of Cleveland.
Along the way they will pass Scanlan’s old IMG office, Progressive Field — home of the Cleveland Indians — and along the Lake Erie waterfront.
“I am just one of many ‘Wenzler’s Warriors’ in his support system, including hundreds of students he has mentored at John Carroll,” Scanlan said.
Yet like everything else, Scanlan’s original plan has been turned a little sideways because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He had originally signed up to the run the Buffalo Marathon that was set to take place this Sunday. However, since that was cancelled because of the coronavirus, things were left up in the air.
“When that was canceled, I was 10 weeks into my 20-week plan, so I decided to continue my training without a clear end-goal,” Scanlan said. “I had already raised around $5,000. As the weeks went on, I started thinking about running 26.2 miles on my own, primarily because I had raised a decent amount of money for Chris and I felt I owed it to the people who had contributed.”
Scanlan, though, would have a longtime talk with his wife Julie and her brother Jason Guyer, who has been his running guru of sorts through all of this, and eventually he decided to take the full plunge, regardless of how it would happen.
And obviously partaking in a marathon isn’t exactly something that you just get into, a lot of thinking and planning, as well as physical training, had to go into making the final decision to run this weekend.
“I was feeling strong physically and I didn’t want to waste the training I had already done,” Scanlan said. “I just needed to convince myself mentally that running a marathon on my own was doable.”
Lots of people run long distances and lots of people raise money for great causes. I am not special or exceptional in that regard. I just felt like, if I was going to take on this physical challenge, I needed an end goal that didn’t have to do with how fast I ran. Certainly, I have my own personal goal, but no one really cares how fast or slow I am.
In terms of funding, Scanlan’s original goal was to raise $2,620, to coincide with the 26.2 miles of the marathon. That goal was met really quickly, so that was bumped up to $5,000.
As of Wednesday, Scanlan’s fundraising attempt has made more than $10,000, which is meant to offset some of the medical expenses for Wenzler.
Any donations can be made to the following Go Fund Me account: https://www.gofundme.com/f/262-miles-supporting-the-wenzler-family.
“Several of our friends and family members will hop in for a few miles along the way,” Scanlan said. “Others will set up aid stations along the way. Chris’ wife, Melissa, will also join us for the final stretch, which really means a lot to me. And Chris will be there at the finish line, which is all the motivation I need.”
In reality, the marathon is the secondary portion of this weekend. Scanlan ran the Akron half-marathon last summer with his wife, and she was the one to ultimately convince him to try the full 26.2 miles.
But this is about a friendship, one that will last much longer than however long it takes Scanlan to run on Saturday. In 2018, Scanlan returned to John Carroll, when he left sports PR to lad communications, and now it has all come full circle, at least professionally.
Not only a lifelong friend and mentor, Wenzler is now his colleague.
“Cancer affects all of us, either personally or through our loved ones,” Scanlan said. “Add a pandemic to that and it’s easy to feel discouraged. I hope my effort makes people feel hope and highlights that impact that people can make on one another.”
Scanlan is the son of longtime Notre Dame principal Dr. Joe Scanlan and Kate Scanlan, while he and his wife — a former soccer player at John Carroll — have a pair of children, Caroline (7) and Jack (4).