Yasir Salem is many things.

Yasir Salem is running 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 weeks to raise money for early detection of lung cancer, which claimed the life of his wife, Gwen Mann, in 2018. Gweneviere Mann Foundation photo

Marketing executive. Endurance athlete. Competitive eater.

Sometimes, as when the New Yorker races a bicycle in the Tour de Donut, he combines all three. More on that later.

Salem, 42, is also a widower. His wife, Gwen, died at age 47 in July 2018, two months after being diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer.

To honor her memory, Salem established the Gweneviere Mann Foundation. He also developed a plan to run a marathon in all 50 states over 50 weeks in an effort to raise awareness and money for early detection programs that can identify lung cancer and brain tumors when treatment is most effective.

Gwen and Yasir had run the New York City Marathon every year since 2010, after she had survived a brain tumor. She suffered a stroke during surgery to remove the tumor and as a result, lost her short-term memory.

On Sunday, he plans to run the Gorham Savings Bank Maine Marathon, No. 46 on his list, a day after completing the New Hampshire Marathon in Bristol, New Hampshire.

Next weekend he’ll knock off Connecticut and Illinois with the Hartford and Chicago Marathons, leaving only the Detroit Marathon on Oct. 19 and the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 27 in Arlington, Virginia.

A GoFundMe page shows pledges of more than $45,000 toward a goal of $100,000.

“I’ve gotten a lot of emotional benefits from all of this,” Salem said after running the Eastern Panhandle Marathon in Martinsburg, West Virginia, on Monday. “It was harder than I thought it was going to be at first, emotionally, but I got better. After a race is done, I can let go and think about things. Usually there are friends with me, or family. Some have run with me. Some have been at the end.”

Monday’s race, on trails in the rain, proved to be a slog. He woke up at 3 a.m. to make the long drive from New York City. Nobody broke four hours. Salem needed more than six. His best time came at the Phoenix Marathon in February, when he covered the 26.2 miles in 3 hours, 57 minutes, 6 seconds.

“I generally try to stay around four hours,” Salem said, “unless I’m running marathons on multiple days. Then I try to save my legs for the last day.”

Salem has twice run three marathons in three days. Once he did three in four days.

As for competitive eating, he won the 2016 Sweet Corn title in West Palm Beach, Florida, by consuming 47 ears in 12 minutes. He scarfed down 25 dogs and buns at the 2012 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest in New York City. He is a four-time champion of the 32-mile Tour de Donut in Ohio, where each doughnut eaten takes five minutes off a racer’s time. He gobbled up 44 in 2017, resulting in an adjusted time of negative 50 minutes.

He also learned to swim late in life and competed in triathlons, but for now is concentrating on running.

Joining Salem on the race course Sunday will be a record number of runners for the marathon, half marathon and relay. Bob Dunfey, race director of the all-volunteer crew, said he expects roughly 3,900 entrants.

Both defending champions, Christine Hein of North Yarmouth and Moses Gitau of Kenya, have entered the marathon but organizers are uncertain whether Gitau, who trains in Mexico, will make it back to the starting line. Finishing one second behind Gitau last year was Bryan Morseman of Bath, New York. He is scheduled to return.

The race pays $1,000 to the marathon winner of each gender and $500 to the half marathon champs. Bonuses of $500 (marathon) and $250 (half) go to course record-breakers.

Dunfey said approximately $140,000 will be donated to about 40 nonprofit organizations, with primary recipients Rippleffect and the Eastern Trail Alliance each receiving $20,000, and WinterKids, Girls on the Run and Portland Community Squash dividing another $20,000.

Clothing discarded along Baxter Boulevard from runners will be collected, cleaned and donated to Through These Doors, a domestic violence resource center.


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