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Team V: Fighting Cancer One Step at a Time

The arrival of fall means crisp air, holidays and football season. More importantly, to those of us at the V Foundation for Cancer Research, it means the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon is here, and Team V is in full stride. The TCS New York City Marathon is a bucket list item for most runners and the world’s largest marathon. To make it even more meaningful, Team V runners have added another mission to their training – raising funds for victory over cancer.

The V Foundation and Team V are honored to have more than 100 great runners team up with us for this race. Three of them are Daniel Russakoff, Steven Russakoff and Marshall Silverman. They are running in memory of their brother and friend, Neil Russakoff. Neil lost his battle with cancer last fall, but Steven, Daniel and Marshall are keeping up the fight. Combined, these three have already raised close to $30,000 for cancer research, all while training for a race they had hoped to run with Neil.

When they speak, one thing is very clear: Their love for Neil is endless. When asked why they chose to run with Team V, each answer was different but still came back to Neil. Daniel said Marshall was their motivating factor on choosing to run with Team V. According to Daniel, Marshall said he didn’t want to run for any other team, “Neil wore the ‘Don’t Give Up’ blue bracelet, and so did I. So do I.”

Daniel, Steven and Neil ran three marathons together. For their first, Daniel and Neil had been training together for months, and Steven decided to join them at the last minute. He didn’t have nearly enough time to train. “Neil was adamant we stick together, so we all crossed the finish line together,” Daniel said. And that has been this running team’s mantra ever since.

The most rewarding part of their hard work is raising money for cancer research in honor of Neil. Their goals are finding treatments that will “outsmart” cancer, doing something that will make a difference for others and finding cures through cancer research so others might not have to go through what Neil went through.

Steven and Daniel shared that “Neil always wanted to run the [TCS] NYC Marathon.” The Russakoff family had many special childhood memories in New York City. “We had high hopes we would run the marathon together after Neil had beaten his cancer, but he did not get to,” said Daniel.

Despite family obligations and demanding careers, this trio kept focused on their training and fundraising. As they train, their minds stay on Neil, remembering the man they each revered as loving and caring – someone who made an impact on everyone he knew. And when the going gets tough? Marshall said he thinks, “Never give up (seriously)!”

The most rewarding part of their hard work, according to all three, is raising money for cancer research in honor of Neil. Their goals are finding treatments that will “outsmart” cancer, doing something that will make a difference for others and finding cures through cancer research so others “might not have to go through what [Neil] went through.”

Each stated they were surprised at the speed with which they were able to hit their fundraising target. Marshall, a physician, described his patients as “incredibly caring and generous. I told my story, and they did the rest.” He said, “I am blown away by their generosity.” Daniel described fundraising as “the easiest part of the process.” Steven added, “We have been blessed with a very strong network of family and friends that jumped on board and got us past our goal in just a few weeks. They are all amazing.”

This is exactly what Team V stresses to all of our runners – the fundraising is much easier than you think once you just tell your story.

At that first marathon together, as Daniel, Steven and Neil approached the finish line, Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer was blasting from the speakers. Since then, it’s been their unofficial anthem for runs together. The TCS New York City Marathon will be Marshall’s fourth marathon and probably his last. He plans to run the entire marathon with Neil’s “well-worn, size 9 Asics” strung across his shoulders, crossing the finish line together one more time.