Outrunning Alzheimer's

By Stephanie Grinnell | Jul 29, 2019
Photo by: Stephanie Grinnell Fred Kilfoil

Fred Kilfoil is “painfully familiar” with Alzheimer’s disease.

He said there is a strong history of the disease in his family and when he heard about research being done at Jackson Laboratory to reverse it, he felt compelled to help. To that end, Kilfoil began a fundraising run — Outrunning Alzheirmer's — from Fort Kent to Kittery on Route 1 at the beginning of June. As of Monday, he’d reached Bucksport, about halfway.

Kilfoil chose running, he said, “because I can run. I can’t do research.”

In speaking with researchers at Jackson Lab, Kilfoil realized they shared many of the same experiences and ideas about the disease that affects more than 44 million people worldwide.

“We both believe there are things we can do to slow the progression and actually reverse Alzheimer’s,” he said.

He said factors such as diet, exercise and lifestyle all are contributors to the disease. Family members seek out doctors, who offer medication to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, but those current medication options often have side effects, Kilfoil said, that are worse than the disease itself.

“If you’re living with them and see that it does, it just tears you apart,” he said.

Kilfoil, of Westbrook, has had plenty of time to think while he runs between 10 and 15 miles per day. While he said most of his journey to date has been “very humdrum” along the tree-lined section of Route 1 between Fort Kent and Calais, he did take note of the many small towns along the way that are economically depressed as well as the lack of internet in many populated locations. Kilfoil said he knew of the situations of the towns but seeing them in person really drove home the reality. Even the nearly empty Bangor Mall seemed “surreal,” he said.

At the same time, Kilfoil said, the contrast between those towns and Jackson Lab, which employs hundreds, strengthened his resolve to raise money for Alzheimer’s research.

“I want to make sure they get lots more money,” he said. “We’re not far from actually having something in the stores. Most of this is, we’ve got to change our ways.”

Now in his 70s, Kilfoil himself began changing the way he exercises when he was in his 40s. An avid gym-goer, he decided at that stage in his life to take up running "as something different." His original plan for the fundraiser was to run every other day to let his body adjust to the new routine, but the route proved longer than originally expected and he's stepped up his pace.

Burning all of those calories each day, Kilfoil said he hasn't changed his diet much and, in fact, might be eating less. His water intake has significantly increased, though.

He also is mostly on his own. Kilfoil drives his own car and runs measured distances away from his car, and back, to wrack up mileage every day. But, along the way, he has been able to stay with friends and family and he touches base as often as possible with those following his efforts.

Follow his progress on Facebook by searching Outrunning Alzheimer’s. To donate to Kilfoil’s cause, go to his GoFundMe page for Outrunning Alzheimer’s.

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