Runner looks to make difference

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

RUNNING FOR A CAUSE — Glen Niemy of Bridgton will be running in the Maine Marathon next month, and hopes to raise money to help bring clean water and sanitation to a poor West African country. (Rivet Photo)

Like many people, Glen Niemy rarely gave much thought about how fortunate he is to have clean running water and a reliable sanitation system.

“It’s a luxury we all take for granted,” the Bridgton resident said.

His outlook changed after hearing a Rotary Club guest speaker representing the BARKA Foundation who talked about poverty-stricken Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in West Africa which less than half of its population has access to clean water and in rural regions less than 10% of the people have access to adequate sanitation.

To help this region, Niemy decided to use one of his passions — running — to raise $5,000 to be used to improve living conditions in Burkina Faso. Niemy plans to run in the Maine Marathon in Portland on Oct. 2, and is seeking pledges from area residents and businesses.

“Women walk great distances in search of water, and even then, the quality isn’t very good — often it is full of diseases. Children and people die daily because of bad water,” said Niemy who has been a member of the Rotary Club for the past three years. “When we think about water, it is simply there by opening a tap. We see it as a basic right. For these people, it is very hard to obtain.”

Water availability in Burkina Faso has decreased annually for the past 45 years. Poor living conditions has resulted in a life expectancy of 49 years of age, while 50% of all deaths in children under age 5 are due to malaria.

In Niemy’s mind, helping others is just the “right thing to do.”

“I believe we all should give something back — to help those less fortunate than us,” he said.

Last week, Niemy finished his last “big” training run — 22 miles — prior to the marathon. Most weeks, Niemy covers about 40 miles. He likes to run in the mornings, mainly on flat surfaces to prevent strain on a balky knee affected by arthritis. An avid runner, Niemy has participated in both the 26.2 miler, as well as the half-marathon. He was forced to the sidelines two years ago when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

“When I had some testing, they found that my PSA levels had jumped. A biopsy revealed that I had third stage prostate cancer,” he said. “I can’t emphasize to people enough the importance of testing. It’s very simple. I know a lot of guys are afraid to have it done because of what they might find. Men over the age of 50 should get tested. I believe it (testing) saved my life.”

Niemy would suffer a relapse 1 . years later. After undergoing radiation treatment for a couple of months, Niemy received a clean bill of health. He returned to the roadway, and slowly worked back into decent running shape. Niemy admits he is “not in race shape,” but has the stamina for a long distance jaunt. He’ll rely upon experience to get him through 26.2 miles. Niemy learned the hard way to be patient, and avoid the temptation of starting too quick.

“It’s about sticking to the plan,” he said. “You don’t want to find that you have nothing left with a couple of miles to go, and all the work over the previous 22 miles is washed away.”

Niemy is excited about running the marathon and helping others at the same time.

“I feel wonderful,” said Niemy who will turn 60 next month. “When you battle cancer, you develop a new perspective on life. It’s scary because suddenly you realize you don’t know how much time you have. You appreciate every day as much as you can. You no longer worry about the little stuff. I believe God gave me a second chance, and I should use my time for a good purpose.”

His cause is to help people thousands of miles away so they can access a basic resource — water.

“I like running, and when I’m doing it for a cause, I seem to run better,” he said.

The local Rotary Club has taken on Niemy’s fundraising effort as one of their international projects. All donations, be it $5 or $25 or more, will be most welcome, Niemy said. Anyone wishing to make a donation can contact Niemy by e-mail at or call his office at 647-2600.

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