Blake Broadhurst used to run around and play in his Orwigsburg community just like any other 13-year-old. But he suddenly found out he was not like other 13-year-olds.
"I was playing football and tackled someone and my nose started bleeding," he recalled of that day four years ago. "We couldn't get the bleeding to stop."
Soon, he was not only bleeding from his nose, but from his eyes and ears, and blood was coming out his mouth. He was airlifted from his Schuylkill County home to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. After medical personnel finally stopped the bleeding and ran tests, they diagnosed Broadhurst with Autoimmune Lymphoproliferative Syndrome, or ALPS.
The autoimmune disease caused Broadhurst to get sick more quickly than most people, which resulted in higher susceptibility to pneumonia. The pneumonia scarred his lungs, causing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which restricts his lung capacity.
Despite those tremendous physical obstacles, Broadhurst and 21 other people known as Team Blake are taking part in the Reebok Spartan Race at Blue Mountain Ski Area on Saturday and Sunday.
The Spartan Race at Blue Mountain is a roughly 5-mile burden and obstacle course that heads up the steep ski slopes, according to Dan Yotive, one of the race directors. More than 14,000 people are registered for the race, which goes off in heats that begin 8 a.m. each day. Race-day registrations will be accepted. The elite men start at 8 a.m., the elite women at 8:15 a.m., and the rest of the heats are run throughout the day.
Team Blake, many of whom will wear Team Blake singlets with the motto "Spartan Strong," takes to the mountain at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
"I want to show people that even though I do have these medical diseases, I am a 17-year-old kid and don't want them to hold me back," Broadhurst said. "I can push through and I will be like all the other 17-year-olds who play sports."
Broadhurst completed several 5-kilometer races in preparation for the Spartan Race, and trains at Crossfit Hail Fire in Orwigsburg. According to his mom, Karen, four new medicines over the past eight to 12 weeks and a six-week course of chemotherapy have helped Blake take 5 minutes off his mile time.
Two certified nurses are part of Team Blake and are prepared to administer oxygen and IVs if needed for any of the team members.
Karen Broadhurst said ALPS is an inherited immune-system disorder that affects both children and adults, although Blake has been told his symptoms of ALPS could disappear once he reaches full maturity.
"In ALPS, unusually high numbers of white blood cells called lymphocytes accumulate in the lymph nodes, liver and spleen, which can lead to enlargement of these organs," Karen Broadhurst said in explaining the disease.
She said Blake suffers from pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lung arteries) and COPD as a result of ALPS. Research doctors at both CHOP and Geisinger Danielsville are examining Blake's case.
Blake and the more than 14,000 people taking part in this weekend's Spartan Race won't have an easy time.
"We definitely have a couple of new obstacles this year, but we try to keep them a surprise until race day to add to the adventure element," Yotive said. "We're trying to focus more on upper body strength. We've definitely made the course more challenging than in previous years."
To that end, the course-design team is using the steep, ski mountain terrain to fit in 20 or so man-made obstacles — obstacles that won't intimidate Broadhurst.
Dirty Girl run: A more fun-filled run is planned for women on Saturday at Jaindl Farms at Raven Valley, 5855 Mulberry Drive, Schnecksville. The Dirty Girl 5K goes off in heats beginning at 8 a.m. and is all about getting muddy and having a good time, while raising funds for breast and ovarian cancer research. Organizers expect to include 10-12 obstacles to ensure runners get muddy.
Ludlow Park 5K: The Panther Valley Running and Fitness Club will hold the Ludlow Park 5K Run/Walk at 8:30 a.m. July 26 in Summit Hill. Race-day registration fee is $25 and will be held 7:30-8:15 a.m. in Ludlow Park. The cost is $20 if received by July 19. Applications are available online at http://www.mogorun.com/ludlowparkapp.pdf.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Summit Hill Historical Society's Ludlow Park Restoration Fund. For more information, contact Joe Mogilski at email@example.com or 570- 233-3125.
Pressmann run: The Jack Pressmann XC Invitational and Team Relay will take place on Aug. 9 at Camp Olympic, sponsored by Emmaus Run Inn.
The team relay begins at 9 a.m. with an open 5K invitational at 10:30 a.m.
The four-person relays include divisions for middle school and high school boys and girls.
Special guests for the weekend include Roger Robinson, who set marathon records in Boston and New York, and Katherine Switzer, the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon.
Part of the proceeds from the event, named in honor of the longtime esteemed running coach, go to the Jack Pressmann Scholarship Fund, as well as to the Central Catholic and Emmaus high schools cross country booster clubs.
On Aug. 8, Emmaus Run Inn will host Robinson and Switzer for a private party, highlighting their film about seven runners in the Chicago Marathon.
For more information or to enter the race or reserve a spot for the Aug. 8 evening viewing, contact the Emmaus Run Inn at 610-966-9939.