GLOVERSVILLE - As Bill Rowback Jr. passed the 18-mile mark in the Walt Disney World Marathon in Florida last January a pulled hamstring nearly prevented him from finishing the 26.2-mile run.
But as Rowback stopped and thought of quitting, the sight of a bracelet clasped around his wrist was enough to push him through the pain.
Rowback is a member of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training, an endurance-sport training program in which runners raise money for research to defeat the disease, which kills someone in the United States every 10 minutes, according to the society's statistics.
Bob Rowback, left, and his nephew, Brandon Rowback, compete in a blueberry pie eating contest at the Fun Festival at the Farmer’s Market Pavilion on Elm Street in Gloversville on Saturday.
The Leader-Herald/Amanda Whistle
On April 23, 2009, Rowback's 63-year-old father, William A. Rowback Sr., died 17 days after being diagnosed with acute leukemia.
The bracelet that reminded Rowback why he had to finish the race was a gift his father gave to his mother, Mary, who gave the bracelet to Rowback after his father died.
On his right running sneaker, Rowback wears a 26.2 to remind him of the number of miles he must run for his father. On his left sneaker, Rowback wears a heart-shaped patch that reads "I love you, Dad."
"I looked at my bracelet and I looked at my shoes and said, 'Alright, Dad. Let's do it,'" Rowback said.
Rowback called his mother as he finished the last 1/2 mile in the race.
"I said, 'Mom, I'm going to do it for Dad. Mom, I finished,'" he said. "I've run a lot of races and that was the best race I ever ran."
Last year Rowback, a city resident and city firefighter, raised $4,200 toward the millions of dollars raised nationwide by thousands of runners for blood cancer research.
Rowback has begun fundraising for this year's marathon. This year, his family teamed up with Cheryl Bielli and the Gloversville Music Boosters to offer a joint event Saturday in downtown by the Farmers Market Pavillion on Elm Street.
The event, called Fun Festival, featured a chicken dinner prepared by the Winner's Circle from Fonda for an $8 donation, as well as a dunk booth, games, vendors and a variety of live musical talent arranged by the Gloversville Music Boosters.
Rowback said he wanted to hold the event near the Farmer's Market to enliven downtown on a Saturday afternoon.
"Everybody says, why not try it at the Walmart parking lot [off of Route 30A], but that doesn't promote the city," Rowback said.
Rowback said he was happy to work with the music boosters club that is fighting to continue to offer arts education to children.
"We have to have something for the youth - some sort of inspiration that comes from extracurricular activities like music or sports," Rowback said.
Rowback's wife, Rosaland, worked to organize the barbecue, selling 150 tickets in advance, and getting vendors together.
There also were several raffles, including one for a large cedar fountain handmade by Bill Rowback.
Bielli organized the musical performances, games, face painting, caricatures and blueberry pie eating contests.
Stephen W. Snyder, of Gloversville, sitting at the pavilion listening to Paul Whitney sing oldies said it was refreshing to find something to do downtown on a Saturday.
"I think this is pretty good," Snyder said.
Rowback's goal for the January 2012 Walt Disney World Marathon is $3,800. The annual event is a weekend full of races including a 3.1 mile race on Friday, a half-marathon race on Saturday and then the 26.2 mile marathon on Sunday.
This year, Rowback said he plans to run all three, which is unofficially nicknamed the "Dopey" challenge after the animated character from Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
"Every year, I try to challenge myself a little more. I think about people who have cancer. They have a challenge every day," Rowback said.
Amanda Whistle covers Gloversville news. She can be reached at email@example.com