WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Steven Blais is attempting to combine his love of exercise with a chance to raise money to wipe out a disease that has affected his family in so many ways.
The Woonsocket man plans to not only run the Boston Marathon course, but he will also row it. It’s what he’s calling a double marathon.
“At the top of Heartbreak Hill, I’m going to get onto a rowing machine and row a marathon as well,” Blais said. “So 42,000 meters in the middle of running the Boston Marathon course.”
After rowing the length of the course, Blais will hop off the machine and finish the 26.2-mile route down Boylston Street.
The Boston Marathon typically takes place on Patriots Day, but the pandemic forced organizers to move it to Columbus Day.
Blais, who’s previously participated in the marathon, said instead of running the route with everyone else in October, he plans to do it the day the it was meant to be run: Patriots Day.
While running and rowing the marathon might sound crazy to some, Blais hopes it will shed light on a disease that more than 5 million Americans live with every day.
12 News first spoke to Blais in November, which is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. As part of The November Project, Blais and a group of other fitness fanatics have combined their love of exercising with raising awareness for Alzheimer’s.
Pre-COVID, more than 150 people would run up and down the front steps of the State House. Once the pandemic hit, a smaller crowd of advocates moved their early morning workouts to the Providence pedestrian bridge, but the group has since returned to Smith Hill.
Blais said by adding rowing into the mix, he hopes to garner support for a cause so close to his heart.
He said the entire time he will be thinking of his mother, both of his grandmothers, and several of his aunts and uncles, all of whom he’s lost to the disease.
“They’re never far from my mind,” he said. “To be able to do this in their memory and to help support those who need that support means the world to me.”
He said he knows there’s a strong possibility that Alzheimer’s may also cut his own life short.
“Genetically, my family is pre-disposed to Alzheimer’s disease, so I always worry about it. But I know living every minute best I can is the way I need to combat it,” he added.
In our 12 on 12 Digital Original: The War on Alzheimer’s, Butler Hospital’s Dr. Stephen Salloway said several promising research trials are taking place in Providence, and it’s possible there will be a cure in our lifetime.
Blais said if his advocacy leads to the world’s first Alzheimer’s survivor, it will all be worth it, and when he crosses the finish line on Monday, his mom will be on his mind.
“She’s always there and on my mind,” he said. “I’m going to be thinking about how I’m doing this for her memory and how I wish I could have that opportunity to celebrate with her.”
Blais said he plans to start running at 5 a.m. on Monday. Anyone who wishes to support his cause can donate to his race online.