When most people hear the word “marathon,” it’s safe to assume that “paradise” isn’t the first thought that comes to mind. For Union High School Principal Jim Cayton and his daughters Erin, Courtney and Emily, the two words combine nicely with a special meaning. Last week, the Cayton family flew to Hawaii to run in the Honolulu Marathon. Billed as the “Marathon in Paradise,” much of the 26.2 mile course takes runners on a path along the ocean, with breathtaking views offered at higher elevations, particularly near the extinct volcano crater of Diamond Head.

For someone who doesn’t consider himself to be a runner, the Honolulu Marathon will not be Jim Cayton’s first. In fact, this year’s event will be his fourth long distance run on the island paradise, coming on the tenth anniversary of his first marathon there. Why does he keep coming back? Jim Cayton is on a mission to defeat leukemia and other blood cancers. When Cayton’s first wife, Jacque, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2000, their three daughters were eight, four and two years old, respectively.

“During that time, good friends of ours actually worked for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS),” Jim recalled.

It was through their friends that the Caytons learned about LLS Team in Training events held throughout the United States. The events combine various endurance challenges involving walking, running, biking and swimming with fundraising to support new breakthroughs in the fight against cancer.
It wasn’t long before “Team Jacque” had friends and family members participating in Team in Training events, raising money in support of a cure. Sadly, after a valiant, seven year battle, cancer claimed Jacque’s life in 2007.

The Cayton family is a resilient bunch. The loss of Jim’s wife did not deter him from his mission. With the encouragement of a close friend, he decided to run a marathon in memory of Jacque. After learning the 2007 Honolulu Marathon was a Team in Training sponsored event, Jim successfully completed his first Marathon in Paradise that year.

Ten years later, Team Jacque returns to Hawaii, where Jim will run with his three daughters. While each of his daughters have long distance running experience, the Honolulu Marathon will be the first marathon they’ve run together. In October, as part of their training, Jim, Erin, Courtney, Emily and Erin’s boyfriend, Zac, ran in the IMT Des Moines Marathon Relay, allowing each of them to run more manageable 5+ mile chunks of the total 26 miles.

The Honolulu Marathon was held on Sunday, December 10. As this issue of The Progress Review went to press, Team Jacque was already on a plane bound for Iowa. The day of the race promises to be a long one, as 30,000 runners will take their marks starting at 5 AM. While Jim poses no threats to the Kenyans and other Olympic-caliber runners competing for the top prize money, he expects to complete the marathon in four to four and a half hours. That evening, the Caytons will board a plane for the journey home to Iowa.

Going into the race, Jim understands the goal of reaching the finish line is sure to be a moment filled with emotion. When the last Cayton crosses the finish line, Team Jacque will have successfully completed the mission they set out to accomplish together, as a family. It’s an effort that would make any wife and mother very proud.

Editor’s note: While much progress has been made in the fight against leukemia, there is more work to be done. If you would like to support Team Jacque as they continue their efforts to raise money for cancer research, logon to http://pages.teamintraining.org/ia/yourway18/TeamJacque.