Long-time Maple Valley resident Bob Satko has 12 grandchildren and will run 250 miles this weekend to help one very special grandson.
Completing the race isn’t about a specific time for Satko, or even about finishing. It is about doing whatever he can to help.
Last year Satko’s grandson, Blake Robison, was diagnosed with Fanconi Anemia, a rare blood disease. According to the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund, the disease is inherited and can result in bone marrow failure and many different cancers. The fund also estimates that 31 babies are born with the disease each year in the USA.
Blake was diagnosed at 2 years old, and he and his parents relocated from Alaska to Western Washington to be close to Children’s Hospital in Seattle.
“Blake is the happiest little boy I know,” Satko wrote in an email interview. “No matter what happens to him, he always has a smile on his face.”
Satko has lived in Maple Valley for 21 years and started running in junior high. He had never ventured into marathons and beyond until he met fellow Maple Valley residents BJ Farish and Cody Hill. They started running together, and before long, Satko was signed up for his first marathon in 2009.
“I tried it and have been hooked ever since,” Satko wrote.
Over the last five years he has run 44 marathons, including the Boston Marathon in 2012 and 2014. Satko has also taken on ultra marathons, running one 50 mile race, one 100 mile race and one 200 mile race.
“Most ultra races are on dirt trails and I love the feeling of running fast through the trees,” Satko wrote. “Maple Valley is the perfect place to do that.”
Satko also said that the peace and beauty of trail running is what he loves about his sport.
“It’s a time for me when my cell phone is turned off and the stress of everyday life just melts away,” he wrote. “We live in a beautiful area and with the running I get to see places in the Maple Valley area that a lot of people drive by every day and don’t even know exist.”
This weekend he is participating in the Pigtails Challenge at Lake Youngs. The race consists of loops around the Lake Youngs trail, an approximately 9 mile distance. Runners could sign up to run a total of 200, 150 or 100 miles.
Satko ran the 200 mile distance at Pigtails in 2012 and ended up in the hospital after running the skin off the bottoms of his feet, he said.
“At the time I thought it was the hardest thing I would ever do and told myself I would never do it again,” Satko wrote.
In light of his grandson’s diagnosis, Satko decided he wanted to do something to help and that’s when he signed up for Pigtails again.
This year, Satko’s goal is to go beyond the 200 mile distance and complete 250 miles in Blake’s name.
“I wanted to combine my love of running and my love for Blake,” Satko wrote. “I knew I had to do something instead of sitting by and wishing that someone would help.”
Satko decided to raise funds for the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund.
“This is what I can do,” he wrote. “And if I raise money, and that money is used for research, and a cure is found, what better gift can I give my grandson?”
Satko runs every morning with friends and on the weekends with Cedar Valley Runners.
Normally, he said, he runs 60-80 miles a week, and to prepare for Pigtails he has done as much as 140 miles in a week. He runs on trails including the Lake Wilderness and Cedar River trails, as well Lake Youngs and Tiger Mountain.
Satko also has the support of friends and family who will make up his support team this weekend.
“A support team is the number one priority on a long race like this,” Satko explained. “Just like Blake has his support team of doctors and specialists, I wouldn’t be able to do this without my team.”
The team will consist of a crew chief who keeps things organized, as well as friends from Maple Valley who will run 10 mile stretches with Satko.
“They have the important job of making sure I’m taking in enough fluids, eating properly, changing my socks every 20 miles, dressing blisters on my feet as they arise, rubbing down my legs and making sure I stay somewhat coherent for 72 hours,” he wrote.
In 2012 Satko said he did take a break to sleep during the race and that this weekend he plans to take one 20-30 minute sleep break each night.
“That means we will be running in the middle of the night, with no street lights and just a headlamp,” Satko wrote.
Pacers play a key role during the long nighttime hours, he added.
“Without a pacer it can get very discouraging trying to stay awake and upright,” he wrote.
The hardest thing about running such a distance, Satko said, is the blisters.
“In 2012 I had huge blisters on the bottoms of both feet that got infected and I had to go to the hospital,” he wrote. “This year I will be much more careful.”
As of Tuesday morning, Satko had raised just more than $8,000 of his $10,000 goal.
“I feel like I have been given a tremendous gift in my ability to run like this and I want to use that to help others,” Satko wrote.
The race started at 6 a.m. on Thursday morning and will end at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning.
If you are interested in learning more about Bob and Blake, and getting updates on the race, visit Bob’s race Facebook page at www.facebook.com/250forFA or his fundraising page at www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/emilyrobison/250milesforfanconianemia.