Naugatuck firefighter Tim Andrew may not run organized races often, but when he does he runs with a purpose.
On June 16 he took on his one challenge for the year, and it was a huge one. The 59-year-old took on the Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race, running 7.6 miles up an average 12 percent grade or incline to prove to himself he could still do it after a personal battle with cancer.
He also did it to raise money for fellow Naugatuck resident Bob Veillette, who suffered a debilitating stroke in 2006.
“I raised $6,000 for Bob Veillette last year doing the Empire State Building stairs race, so this year I hope to get close to that,” Andrew said. “It is a two-banger. You get to raise money for someone who really needs it and deserves it, and you get to take part in a very unusual, fun, fulfilling race. I don’t race at all except the Empire State Building and this one.”
Andrew said he had planned to run the Empire State Building Run-up in February for Veillette again, but when the time came he still felt too weak from the 27 radiation treatments he underwent between October and December. After he had his tonsils removed in July because they were found to be cancerous, they found more cancer in a lymph node in his neck, which was removed in October.
The ensuing radiation treatments were necessary to make sure there was no remaining cancer. He said everything went well and he is now cancer free, but he just didn’t feel strong enough to race up the 1,576 steps over the first 86 floors of the Empire State Building.
Instead, he set his sights on the 6,288-foot summit of Mount Washington, and reached it in a time of 2 hours, 9 minutes, 51 seconds. It was the fourth time he’s run the race with his best time being 1:34 the first time he ran it 15 years ago.
“I would have liked to have gotten 2:00 instead of 2:09, but at 59 to finish ahead of more than 400 runners, I’m pretty proud of that,” Andrew said. “Every once in a while you think about just stopping, but you fight your way through it. I think most people finish, because it is a big thing to prove to yourself you can do it. This is a big deal especially in New England. I think it is the second-hardest race in the United States behind Pikes Peak which is 14 miles.”
Andrew generally runs only once per week, a seven-mile run each Sunday. He also bikes 37 miles 2-3 times per week. As for the competitive running, he only takes part in the Mount Washington and Empire State Building races, because of their unique nature. And each time, he runs them for a cause.
“I ran for Easter Seals for years and years, but then I figured I would do something for someone in town,” Andrew said. “I started running for him about five years ago. He had his stroke in April 2006, and about a year after he had it I found out about him and figured I wanted to do something for him. He was a runner and he is a musician which I am. He was a veteran and he has a great family. He’s a great guy.”
Andrew wasn’t sure exactly how much the run raised for Veillette this year, because the Naugatuck Savings Bank is still taking donations. Donations can be sent to the bank’s executive office at 251 Church Street, Naugatuck 06770. Checks should be made out to “Bob Veillette Special Needs Trust Fund.”
In addition to the satisfaction of raising money for a good, deserving person, Andrew also reaped the benefits of a perfect running day and a great view. He said that while he was too exhausted immediately upon finishing to truly appreciate what he had accomplished, within 15-20 minutes he was feeling great.”
“It was an absolutely beautiful day,” Andrew said. “It was very warm at the bottom. In fact, it was hot running the first four miles, but then it got cooler as you went up, and at the top it had to be about 55 degrees which is very unusual. It is usually 30-40 degrees at the top. So it was a gorgeous day for running, and it was clear so you could see forever.”