Son of Southwest Missouri Man with Alzheimer's Runs Endurance Race to Raise Money for Research

Nov 3, 2017

Update:  Marty Seaton finished the 100-mile endurance race in 31 hours and 2 minutes.  

Marty and Mark Seaton at the End of the 100-Mile Endurance Race
Credit Marty Seaton

Mark Seaton, a lifelong resident of southwest Missouri, has lived for years on 40 acres in Highlandville, just south of Nixa.

His son, Marty, described him as “a great, hardworking guy.”

"He spent 3o plus years working in a grocery store warehouse, raised his two natural kids and several other kids that he adopted and fostered.  A great man in his community, a great father, a great mentor for dozens of people," said Marty Seaton.

After they raised their sons, Marty’s parents fostered several children.

Almost four years ago, when Mark was 57, he was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

He’s doing well so far, according to Marty.

"There are signs that we certainly notice and he notices, but if you met him, you may not notice a difference unless you'd met him before," said Marty Seaton.

An Alzheimer’s diagnosis can leave people—both those diagnosed and their loved ones—feeling helpless, Marty said, since there aren’t many treatment options, and there’s no cure.

The 37-year-old Spokane High School and Drury University graduate, wanted his dad to see that he was doing something to help.

Mark and Alice Seaton
Credit act.alz.org

"And the more I looked at the problem the more I came to the conclusion that it really needs money.  It needs awareness and money, but researchers need more money, and I thought, 'well, I can try and raise money,'" he said, "but if I want people to dip into their pockets and take their very hard-earned dollars and give them to my cause, I thought I needed to show them that I was doing something really hard, too," Seaton said.

Saturday morning at 6 before the sun comes up, Mark Seaton will begin a 100-mile endurance race at Mark Twain National Forest near Rolla.  His goal is to raise $1000 for every mile he runs for a total of $100,000.  The money will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association.  So far, he’s raised just over $38,000. 

"I've gotten small donations from high school teachers that I haven't seen in almost 20 years, you know, 20 bucks here, 20 bucks there, and it's come from all over--people I don't know, people I do know, and I'm a lawyer, so other lawyers, judges, mayors, all the way down to high school bus drivers and  lunch ladies," he said, "so it's really been just a broad group of people that have supported what I'm doing, and I've been overwhelmed by that."

The money will be used for research and to support those caring for Alzheimer’s patients.

Seaton will begin the race, on the Ozark Trail, about 100 miles south of Steelville and run north on a single-track trail.

"It's rough.  It's rocky.  It goes through a lot of streams," he said.  "I think the elevation gain that I'll go up is about 13 or 14,000 feet.  So, it's up and down hills, through rocks, cliffs, rivers, streams, and I have 32 consecutive hours to finish it."

Because he's determined to finish in that time frame, he doesn't plan to sleep.

He’s never done a race like this one.  A few years ago, he started running to lose some weight.  He’s completed two marathons, but he’s never done an off-road race.  Those are different.  According to Seaton, they’re more mental than physical, although you have to be in good physical shape.

"You have to be able to push through the night when you haven't slept and everything hurts, and you just try to get your way to the finish, so it's a very slow, progressive progress where you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other," said Seaton.

There will be aid stations set up along the route, every five to 10 miles, where runners can get water and food.  He has a whole crew of people that will be helping him.  Four people will take turns running with him from mile marker 40 to the end.  And family and friends will meet him at the aid stations to help with food, clothing and equipment.

He’s run over 700 miles on trails to prepare for this.

"I've got three young kids...and my wife's been very patient.  I've been gone just about every Saturday and/or Sunday, plus, up at 4:30, 5 a.m. during the week a couple of times a week.  She's been patient manning the house while I've been trying to do this," Seaton said.

He’s anxious about running 100 miles in one stretch because he has no idea what his body is going to do.  The most he’s ever run in a day is 40 miles.  But he’s mostly excited.

"The one great thing about having all of these people knowing what you're doing is that you're raising money, and you have a lot of encouragement.  The negative side, then, is if you fail, there's hundreds of people that know about it," he said.  "So, I'm hoping to finish.  I'm optimistic.  Just trying to stay positive and not worry anything that's out of my control at this point."

He’ll wear trail shoes with a little more grip than regular running shoes.  He’ll have to take it slow because the trail is rocky and, this time of year, rocks might be hidden beneath leaves.  He’s heard it referred to as “trail braille” because you have to feel along the trail with your feet.

"I'm not going to be sprinting at all.  It's going to be kind of a slow tap dance down this trail hoping that I don't fall too many times," Seaton said.

He’ll wear a pack to carry water, food, batteries, a flashlight, a first aid kit and other needed items.  He’ll wear a headlamp at night.

When he first came up with the idea to run the race for Alzheimer’s, he just wanted to raise some money and honor his dad, but his expectations have changed.

He got on Facebook for the first time and posted a video of himself talking about his dad.

This week his dad, who had also never been on Facebook before and who’s not one to talk about himself, according to Seaton, posted his own video on the social media site.

"Kind of saying what this is like from his perspective, which I think really brought it home to a lot of people, how this affects a whole family," said Seaton.

It’s not just himself against Alzheimer’s he said.  It’s turned out to be a community event, and he’s heard from both friends and strangers about their experiences with the disease.  He feels like he’s been able to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s.    His family has grown closer, too.  He said they’re not talking about a topic that, before, “they’ve kind of danced around.”

The race will end Sunday at 2 at a campground, and for the last one-third of a mile, runners can have as many pacers as they’d like.

"So that means that I can have everybody who's helped me cross the finish line with me.  My dad plans to be there with me to cross the finish line, so that's going to be special to me," Seaton said.

Click here to help Marty Seaton raise money for Alzheimer’s.