At some point, Kramer made a creative decision to have those cumbersome obligations intersect. Desperate to spread the word about the importance of registering as a bone-marrow donor — he estimates only 9 million people are registered — Kramer embarked on a four-event quest over the span of 8 months to raise awareness.
"It was just me in the beginning," he said. "All I had was a banner and some testing kits."
Kramer completed a marathon, two Ironman half-triathlons and a full Ironman triathlon. Eventually his effort gained steam, finally culminating last year when the Kramers incorporated their hard work into the non-profit Racing to Register.
Using endurance sports as a platform, Racing to Register aims to enlarge the pool of potential donors for blood cancer patients in need of lifesaving bone marrow or stem cells.
"We think that the endurance part — the reason we chose that platform — is that you have to have a lot of endurance to go through that kind of treatment," Kramer said. "There is that marriage there — if we can put ourselves through this, you can register."
Athletes that who join Team RTR complete the donor registration process and, in return, the program facilitates their endurance training through coaching, discounted gear and more.
While his wife's illness is what got him started, Kramer says the event has grown into something much bigger. With more than 2,100 registrants, RTR has produced four potential matches.
"Pam was the initial catalyst," he said. But Racing to Register is far beyond Tom Kramer and his wife now. It's much deeper.
That hasn't limited Kramer's involvement. Kramer, a self-professed Type A personality, pumps his own money into the program and, despite his passion, for endurance competition — he has competed in more than 60 events from Hawaii to Paris — says that he races nowadays only if he can have a bone-marrow drive or can get some sort of promotion out of it for the non-profit.
But don't let that fool you into thinking that Kramer's competitiveness is waning. Saturday's race involves a 0.9K swim, a 24K bike and a 5K run — not exactly something someone can do on a whim.
"I'm not getting up at 4 in the morning to finish last, let's put it that way," Kramer said. "I'd like to get a top 10 in my age group, maybe even top six."
Drive and determination are two attributes that Kramer shares with his wife. He said that, at times against doctor's orders, Pam's diagnosis couldn't halt her training.
"She has never stopped," he said "Even when her hemoglobin was half of a normal person's, she was still doing triathlons. Whenever we do speaking, patient groups drop their jaw at that."
While Pam won't compete this weekend, she will be in attendance, helping to spread the word. Like husband, like wife.
To join Team RTR visit www.racingtoregister.com.
Contact Alex Lee at email@example.com.