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Politics

Jimmy Pantelidis Beats Pancreatic Cancer, Conquers Boston Marathon

April 20, 2018

BOSTON – In February 2017, Jimmy Pantelidis was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a challenge he tackled full-on, as he does all the challenges of life. He vowed to beat cancer and also run the Boston Marathon the following year. Inspired by the marathon at the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, Boston’s race is the world’s oldest annual marathon, begun in 1897, and one of the most famous.

On April 16, Pantelidis, having completed his last chemo treatment only 4 months before and after receiving a cancer-free diagnosis, ran the Boston Marathon, his 15th marathon. Nearing his 65th birthday in a few months, he is known as the “marathon man,” as the Greek Reporter reported.

The race itself was not the only challenge Pantelidis faced. The terrible weather, perhaps the worst in Boston Marathon history, made it an especially grueling ordeal. The wind chill made the temperature feel like 26 degrees F, heavy rain, and headwinds with gusts up to 35 miles an hour, left many runners with hypothermia and over 2,000 participants had to receive medical treatment. Pantelidis and running mate Mike Manatos were not deterred, however, and finished the race.

The hills make Boston one of the more difficult marathons to run, though 30,000-plus runners flock from all corners of the globe to participate. Half a million people also watch the marathon, “making it New England’s most widely viewed sporting event,” the Greek Reporter reported.

Pantelidis and Manatos were inspired by the Greek heroes of marathon history: ancient Greek Pheidippides who ran from Marathon to Athens to announce victory in 490 BC; Spyridon Louis who won the first marathon at the modern Olympic Games in 1896; and Stylianos Kyriakides who won the Boston Marathon in 1946.

Born in Paphos, Cyprus in 1910, the remarkable Kyriakides was a gifted runner winning races in the Pan-Cyprian Games before competing in the Greek national championships, winning the marathon, and representing Greece in the 1936 Berlin Games. He fought in the Greek resistance during World War II and barely escaped execution. Watching his fellow Greeks starving to death in the aftermath and also in the Civil War that followed, he decided to go to Boston and win the marathon and save his people in spite of the fact that he had not competed in 6 years. According to newspaper reports at the time, he sold his furniture to buy a ticket to the United States.

Boston Marathon officials asked him to sign a release form in order to participate because his emaciated appearance led them to believe he might die during the race. Massachusetts-native Johnny Kelley, a champion long-distance runner, ran alongside Kyriakides until shouts of “For Greece, for your children!” from the crowd spurred him on to win with a time of 2:29:27. Life magazine reported that Kyriakides shouted, “For Greece!” as he crossed the finish line.

After his victory in Boston, he toured the U.S. and raised $250,000 for the people of Greece, collecting tons of food and supplies as well. He received a hero’s welcome from over a million people lining the streets when he returned home.

On April 12, Pantelidis and Manatos met Kyriakides’ grandchildren- Maria Contos and George Contos at Massachusetts State Hall where the golden olive wreaths from Marathon, Greece were presented at the annual event hosted by the Alpha Omega organization in Boston. Since 1984, the wreaths crown the winners of the Boston Marathon. Nick Tsiotis, the author of Running with Pheidippides: Stylianos Kyriakides, the Miracle Marathoner, was also in attendance at the event.

During the event, Pantelidis and Manatos were also presented with replicas of the Kyriakides’ jersey from 1946 and wore them as they ran Boston.

During the race, Pantelidis and Manatos stopped at Mile 1 at the statue erected to Kyriakides which also features the figure of 1896 Olympic Marathon champion Spyridon Louis, and displayed the Greek flag. Crossing the finish line in the afternoon, the rain-soaked Manatos and Pantelidis held the Greek flag together, and shouted, “For Greece!”

Pantelidis’ daughter Marianna ran the New York City Marathon in November 2017 to honor her father and raised over $22,000 for Project Purple an organization dedicated to finding a cure for pancreatic cancer and improving the lives of patients through support, hope, and compassion. For the Boston Marathon, Pantelidis ran to raise funds for two charities, Project Purple and Cops for Kids with Cancer.

Pantelidis, is the co-founder, along with his brothers George and Peter, of Pan-Brothers Associates, Inc., a Real Estate Development, Management, and Brokerage company. A long-time member of the Leadership 100 Board of Trustees, he also served on the Board of the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Manhattan. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, Stella, and their three children, Carli- 24, Marianna- 22, and Nicholas- 18.

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