Then Jim was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. "To someone who loved and lived life as much as Jim did," said Brian, "any cancer diagnosis was devastating, much less a diagnosis of esophageal cancer, a particularly tough cancer to overcome."
Brian watched his father-in-law, a construction equipment operator with SEPTA for 30 years, battle for three years.
"When I would stop by to see him," Brian recalled, "I would often find myself running out of things to say. I thought: How do I converse with my buddy, who in all likelihood is not going to make it through this? How do I tell him with a straight face, 'Hang in there, it'll be OK'? when deep down I knew it wouldn't."
Brian came up with an idea. There was one thing Jim had done in life that Brian had not, one thing that Jim had always bragged about to Brian - running the Broad Street Run.
"My idea was to challenge Jim," Brian recalled. "I would run Broad Street if he promised to be at the finish line."
But when Brian went to see Jim that night, in February 2008, to present the challenge, Jim was far too sick. He had fallen fast and Brian couldn't bear to mention it.
"I knew right away that there was no way he would be able to make the race," Brian said. "There was no way that he would still be with us."
A few weeks later, on Feb. 29, 2008, Jim died at age 59.
That May, Brian ran his first Broad Street Run in honor of his beloved friend and father-in-law.
"I ran with Jim by my side the whole way," Brian said.
That is only the beginning of the story.
About 30 friends and family ran with Brian. They called themselves "Jimbo's Squad."
Now, four years later, Jimbo's Squad will have more than 200 runners in the Broad Street Run, said Brian, "and we hope to raise over $35,000 to help patients fighting cancer at Fox Chase Cancer Center."
That would put Jimbo's Squad over $100,000 raised since 2008. The money is targeted for the care and comfort of cancer patients and their families ( www.jimbossquad.org).
"I have really grown a passion for running," said Brian, 34, of Ambler. "I run three to four times a week and average 20 miles. But when it comes to the first Sunday in May, running plays only a small part of what has become my favorite day of the year!"
Contact Michael Vitez
at email@example.com or 215-854-5639.