The Selflessness of the Long-Distance Runner

Run 12 marathons in 12 months? no problem for Steve Gorny … as long as it’s for a good cause

Published in 2007 Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyers — November 2007

Steve Gorny claims he had no choice. He had to run 12 marathons in 12 months. Before his “12-in-12” campaign for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Gorny had already run 15 marathons, four with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training program. By charity marathon No. 4, he noticed that it was getting harder to raise money.
 
“I’d go to my contacts and say, ‘Would you like to sponsor me?’ and they’d say, ‘Didn’t you just talk to me last month? You’re doing this all the time,’” says Gorny, 39. “I realized I needed to make it really interesting, to make a big splash, if I was going to keep raising money.”
 
His 12-in-12 solution might have sounded a little insane, but it did get attention. At the beginning of his campaign, Gorny set a numerically logical—and seemingly lofty—fundraising goal of $12,000. But support was so strong from the start that he had to double his goal to $24,000 halfway through. By the end of the year he’d raised $35,000. 
 
“It was incredible,” Gorny says. “The money came in from everywhere.” Friends, family and colleagues donated, of course, but also people who read about Gorny’s campaign in the paper or saw him during long training runs or at marathons wearing a T-shirt bearing the URL for his campaign blog: 12in12.blogspot.com. 
 
Gorny signed up for his first Leukemia and Lymphoma Society run in 1998 when his sister told him she was running to raise money for a young girl in her neighborhood struggling with the disease. 
 
For his own campaign, Gorny selected an “honored patient” each month—a person fighting leukemia or another form of cancer. “I’d feature their story and post a picture of them on my Web site,” Gorny explains. “I think that was truly the most important part of the mission: publicizing the stories and experiences of real people who live with the disease.” 
 
Sometimes Gorny was able to meet his honored patients. In November, at the Philadelphia Marathon, he met Christina, a little girl with brain cancer. 
 
“Christina’s whole family came out to watch the race,” Gorny says. “I still get emotional talking about it. I came around a corner and there they all were, holding signs and waiting for me.” 
 
But Gorny didn’t spend all of 2006 running marathons. Between training, blogging and flying to races around the country, he also kept up a full-time practice representing plaintiffs in catastrophic-injury cases. 
 
“One of the hardest things was scheduling races around work,” says Gorny, who ran his best time in Las Vegas, finishing in 3:56:40. “There were often times when I’d fly out on a Saturday morning, run the marathon on Sunday morning, shower in a YMCA or a hotel gym and then fly home and rush back to work on Monday morning.” 
 
A shareholder at the Leawood firm of Bartimus, Frickleton, Robertson & Gorny, Gorny believes he’s well suited for his work as a plaintiffs’ catastrophic-injury lawyer, handling serious injury, wrongful death, and product liability and transportation claims. 
 
“I started out on the defense side,” he says. “Nine years ago, I came over to this firm and realized that I really enjoy representing people who’ve been hurt. I like to help make people’s lives better.” 
 
Gorny hopes that the money he raised in this campaign will help make life better for people diagnosed with leukemia and lymphoma. He knows that the experience he gained over those 12 months improved his own life. 
 
“It’s a life-changing experience,” he says. “To see the families, to see the people I was running for, and to hear the things they said in response to my actions. Those words will stay with me forever. I truly got far more than I gave.”   

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