There is no cure for multiple myeloma, the form of blood cancer Kenny Capps was diagnosed with in 2015. But that won’t stop the Black Mountain man from embarking on a 1,000-plus-mile run from the Outer Banks to Clingman’s Dome in April.
The goal of the run, in which Capps will travel the Mountain-to-Sea Trail joined by fellow runners at various points on his trip, is simple - raise $117,500, or $100 per mile, for Throwing Bones For a Cure, a nonprofit organization Capps established to help others battling the disease. He’s hosting a 5K in his hometown to kick it all off.
At 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 3, the Throwing Bones Trail 5K will get underway on the Black Mountain campus of Montreat College. The event gives runners a brief glimpse of what daily life will be like for Capps once he begins his nearly two-month run.
“This 5K will raise money for the organization and kind of set up the Throwing Bones Run,” Capps said. “We thought the idea of a trail run would tie into what we’re already doing with the Mountain-to-Sea trail, but we wanted to make it short enough to where people who don’t typically run could be a part of it.”
The course will take runners along 3.1 miles of trails over relatively flat terrain. All of the proceeds will go to Throwing Bones For a Cure, which allocates money to three causes related to multiple myeloma, according to Capps.
“One third of the money goes to research; those funds go the (Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation),” he said. “We also want to encourage multiple myeloma patients to stay active during and after treatment, because that not only makes the treatment and recovery go better, but it helps you live a better quality of life.”
The organization is establishing a grant for multiple myeloma patients and their caregivers, Capps added.
“The fund will allow for multiple myeloma patients, or their caregivers, to apply for nonmedical financial assistance to help with basic bills, money for transportation to and from treatment or money for a hotel room if they’re going to get treatment,” he said.
The costs associated with treatment can take a toll, according to Capps, who regularly takes trips to Atlanta to see a specialist at Emory University. He received a bone marrow transplant there in August 2015.
“After my transplant I had to stay near the facility, and I had to pay for that,” he said. “Insurance doesn’t cover those costs, but everyone has to consider them if they’re getting treatment.”
Unable to continue to work after his diagnosis, Capps was also not able to run for four months after his transplant. That was particularly tough for a man who had used the sport as a way to cope prior to his diagnosis.
He began running by December of 2015 and by the end of 2016 "I realized I had run 16 races that year, including three half marathons and several 10Ks," Capps said.
Though his life would never get back to the way it was, he wanted something that would allow him to focus his attention on a task.
"At first I said to my wife 'what if I ran the whole Mountain-to-Sea Trail,'" he said. "She wasn't aware how long that was, and I don't think I was at that point."
Capps decided the run could serve as a way to raise money and awareness for the disease. The name "Throwing Bones" is a play on the name of a Grateful Dead song, "Throwing Stones."
"I'm a bit of a Dead Head," he said. "The bones of course, are a big part of myeloma and throwing bones means letting it ride and then the jam band reference, it's like a triple entendre."
Capps will attend the 5K, but won’t be running since he’ll be just a week removed from taking on the Black Mountain Marathon. He registered to run the Mount Mitchell Challenge, but with his April run to the coast looming, he decided the risk of injury traversing the peak of the mountain - part of the Challenge - was too great.
“With this run coming up I wanted to play it safe,” he said. “If there wasn’t a time cutoff for the Challenge I’d just do it and take my time, but if I push myself too hard, the risk of hurting an ankle or something goes way up.”
Capps's cancer, which originated in his hip, isn't in remission, and it has taken a toll on his body. "I don't think about that stuff because it doesn't help me or anybody else," he said. "It's not to be noble or brave, it's just that I don't see the purpose."
For more on the Throwing Bones Trail 5K, including registration, visit throwingbonestrail5k.org.