Whether throwing footballs with the New York Jets or lacing up with New York Road Runners, Boomer Esiason has always had a goal.
On Saturday, his goal was to finish Boomer’s Cystic Fibrosis Run to Breathe, a 10K race in Central Park.
After the devastation in 1993 of hearing that his 2-year-old son, Gunnar, had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system due to a build-up of mucus, Esiason created the Boomer Esiason Foundation, an organization directed toward fighting the disease. Since its founding, the BEF has raised more than $60 million toward CF-related causes, from drug development to scholarships to hospital wings, and Saturday’s race was expected to raise about $125,000.
For the second year, Esiason and New York Road Runners teamed up on Saturday to sponsor the Run to Breathe, which this year had 4,822 finishers. The ex-NFL MVP quarterback and current TV and radio broadcaster said he was inspired to run by Jerry Cahill, a 56-year-old CF patient who underwent a double-lung transplant just three months ago. “I’m not a great runner, I’m probably a little bit too much overweight and I’m a little beat up as an ex-athlete, but if Jerry can do it with two new lungs then I certainly can be out here alongside him.”
Dan Daly won the men’s division in 32:06, while Heidi Hullinger won for the women in 38:46. Both athletes compete for the New York Athletic Club. Cahill finished the race in 1:31:43.
Esiason finished, too, in 1:18:11, in time to cheer Cahill in his post-transplant triumph.
Before he headed to the starting line, Esiason was asked about his goals for Gunnar, now 21 years old and a rising senior at Boston College. "I want him to outlive me and I want him to be a father of his own, because there is nothing like being a parent," he said.
Esiason said that Gunnar is considering law school: "He is a very dedicated reader and writer. He is a very bright kid. And now I sound like a dorky parent but I can't help it. He really does have his eyes on being a lawyer." Gunnar has also successfully taken on the role of being a national advocate for CF research and support while leading a normal college life and playing about 25 games a year on an ice hockey team with his father.
"He and I are best buddies,” said Esiason. “We love each other dearly, as we should. And we have such a great relationship. Cystic fibrosis is a part of your life, but it doesn’t overtake your life.”
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg