Last year, we checked in with David Eitrheim, M.D., after he had finished his 90th marathon — miles he ran while living with a terminal cancer diagnosis. We were saddened to learn that Dr. Eitrheim recently “completed the race of his life,” on Jan. 1. “Finishing time,” according to his lovingly written obituary, “was 58 years, eight months, nine days.”
Dr. Eitrheim packed a lot of miles — and a lot of life — into those years. The longtime physician at Mayo Clinic Health System – Red Cedar, in Menomonie, Wisconsin, logged more than 40,000 miles and completed 91 marathons. Of those, 36 were ultramarathons, including more than a dozen 100-milers. Running was so important to him that when asked by his palliative care physician, former colleague and friend Jim Deming, M.D., “What would give you a really great day?” Dr. Eitrheim’s answer was “I would love to run another marathon.” And so in spite of his illness and the effects of treatment, he did just that — and more. In November 2014, he laced up his shoes and ran the Rails to Trails marathon along the Elroy-Sparta State Trail, followed by an ultramarathon in Arizona.
To honor Dr. Eitrheim and his passion for running, the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram reports that a group of his friends took him — “or at least a pair of his running shoes” — on a final symbolic run on the day of his memorial service. The group of 18 split in two, each taking a shoe and eventually meeting up “at Evergreen Cemetery in Menomonie, where (Dr.) Eitrheim — and his shoes — would be laid to rest.” Terry Sullivan, a friend and running buddy, told the paper, “I think it was something Dave could appreciate.” Dr. Eitrheim’s wife, Amy, “met the runners and walkers at the cemetery, where she ‘was giving everyone high-fives when we finished,’” Sullivan told the paper. Read the rest of David's story.