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Vickroy: Mother, son to run Chicago Marathon in memory of husband, dad

Mark Fishbaugh his mom Judy Fishbaugh will run this fall's Chicago marathon. Judy's husbDave died when their swas just 5.

Mark Fishbaugh and his mom, Judy Fishbaugh, will run in this fall's Chicago marathon. Judy's husband, Dave, died when their son was just 5. | Donna Vickroy~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 2, 2013 6:22AM



When mother and son step off at this year’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon, they’ll be running for different causes but with a single inspiration in their hearts.

On Jan. 4, 1997, Judy Fishbaugh lost her husband and Mark Fishbaugh lost his dad.

Soon after, Judy found relief in running.

“I became addicted to it,” she said. “It is such a stress reliever.”

“She’s crazy when she doesn’t run,” Mark, who just recently took up the sport, said.

“And I find him to be a much more pleasant person to be around when he’s running,” Judy said.

Sitting in the kitchen of their Oak Forest home last week, Judy and Mark talked about Dave Fishbaugh and how his untimely passing has shaped their lives, leading them toward the starting line at this fall’s 26.2-mile run.

Judy and Dave met while students at Richards High School in Oak Lawn. He was dating her girlfriend, and Judy was dating her girlfriend’s brother. All four went to prom together. Eventually, Judy and Dave got together. They were married in 1986 at St. Catherine of Alexandria Church and had their reception at the Riviera Country Club in Orland Park.

Dave earned his electrician’s license through the city of Chicago and landed a job with World’s Finest Chocolate. He also ran a small business out of his home.

When Mark was just 5, Dave was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Despite two surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, he lost his battle.

Before he became sick, Judy said, Dave was almost larger than life. He was a daredevil who loved snowmobiling and racing cars at dragstrips in Hobart, Ind., and Union Grove, Wis.

“He loved to go fast,” she said.

Once, while vacationing in Hawaii, the couple took a helicopter ride on a less than ideal day.

“The wind was blowing so hard that it blew out the window next to Dave’s seat,” forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing, Judy said. But instead of getting a refund, Dave parlayed the canceled trip into a longer, more extensive one — on a nicer day, of course.

A fan of water skiing, Dave taught Judy how to do it barefoot. Judy, in turn, taught Mark.

Mark, now 22, remembers the hospital bed in the living room and the nurse who came to check on his dad.

After Dave died, life became difficult for Judy and Mark, who later would be diagnosed with dyslexia and other learning disabilities.

“He’s had some struggles finding his way,” his mom said.

Mark graduated from Oak Forest High School in 2009 and spent the next few years working odd jobs.

When Judy had to back out of the First Midwest Half Marathon race in Palos Heights in May due to a stress fracture, Mark volunteered to run in her place, even though he hadn’t run a race before.

“We bought him shoes on Friday, and he ran on Sunday,” said Judy, who rode her bicycle alongside him. “He was smiling the whole way. Youth.”

At a post-race barbecue, members of the Chicago Area Runners Association congratulated Mark and told him he should run in the Chicago Marathon, which takes place Oct. 13.

“CARA is like a family. The whole running community has embraced him,” Judy said. “His self-esteem now is great.”

Judy and Mark also are members of Running for Kicks, a Palos Heights-based running club.

Mark would like to become a water sports instructor one day. His marathon run will benefit Back On My Feet, an organization that uses running to build self-sufficiency and confidence in people experiencing homelessness.

“Running makes you feel better about yourself,” he said. “And once you feel better about yourself, you can go on job interviews and live independently.”

Judy is running on behalf of The Cure It Foundation, a nonprofit that fights pediatric cancer and provides personalized support for those battling it. She has two good friends whose kids have been diagnosed with cancer.

On Sept. 29, their CARA group will take a bus from Crestwood to downtown Chicago to run the last six miles of the marathon.

“Just to familiarize ourselves with that part of the course,” Judy said.

Judy, who turns 50 this year, isn’t sure how long she’ll be able to continue running. She has been diagnosed with osteoporosis.

She’s been doing a lot of cross training lately, bicycling when she can and swimming every morning before dawn.

“I’m not so concerned about being fast anymore,” she said. “I just want to be able to run.”



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