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.”