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NFE Athlete Spotlight: Casey Perez

Casey Perez will tell you that running saved his life. Now, he’s part of the NF Endurance team, and running to help save the lives of others. Casey took a break from training to answer our questions about his next race, his friendship with the Hoffman family, and the greatest piece of running advice he’s ever received. 

Man in sunglasses and a blue "children's tumor foundation" t-shirt smiles for a selfie at an outdoor event, wearing a race bib numbered 2483.Children’s Tumor Foundation: What does running mean to you? How did you “discover” running?

Casey: I started running in 2015. I had a long battle with alcoholism and needed an outlet. I told some terrible person that I wanted to do a marathon and they said that I’d never be able to do it. So, after every marathon, I post a picture holding up what number marathon that it is for me. I’m up to six now and will reach seven and eight this year. Running has been a way for me to set goals, make great choices, get lost in a book on tape, see other cities by running through them, and prove to people that anything is possible.

Why are you running with the NF Endurance team? How did you first hear about the team?

I found the Children’s Tumor Foundation after I didn’t get a spot in the Chicago Marathon last year. A family friend’s daughter was diagnosed with a non-operable brain tumor when she was 2 years old. They gave her 5 years to live and now she is in her mid-twenties and thriving. Watching her mom and dad try and keep their daughter healthy and safe made running for anything that involved such a horrible twist of circumstance an easy choice to choose CTF. The more I’ve learned about NF and the impacts that has on kids makes it all worth the training and fundraising. What’s brought me back is Liam Hoffman and his family. I’ve stayed in touch with them after meeting in Chicago, and I’m going to join them in their hometown of Pittsburgh in May for a 5K and the marathon.

How has your connection to the team impacted your experience preparing for the 2024 Chicago marathon?

My connection to the team has made me accountable and the last thing I want to do is let anyone down. I’ve always just ran for myself, and now I’m part of a team and I have to do my part and show up. It’s nice to watch the other teammates’ journey and see how they prepare for this awesome race. All the sore muscles, early morning runs, runner’s hunger and self-doubt are a small hindrance compared to what patients dealing with NF have to go through. 

What’s next?

Pittsburgh Marathon in May and getting to run with (NF Hero) Liam is going be too much fun! And then running with Will (Liam’s father) in the Marathon. I’ve been a Little League coach and coached kids Liam’s age. What I learned is that it’s a very impressionable age for kids and this is the meat of where I was influenced by others in my life. Hopefully doing my little part to show Liam a perfect stranger has been influenced by his tenacity and great attitude that anything can be overcome. In turn, I know he’s going to do the same as an adult, and that’s how we build a community of good people.  

What’s a great piece of running advice that you received? Man celebrating at a marathon, raising arms with a blue "end nf" shirt, spectators and runners in the background.

Running started for me as a race every day, and now it’s something I get to do. [Speaking with] a friend that I met last year in Chicago, I was complaining about “dreading” my long run that day. He simply responded with “you get to run today.” Now if that doesn’t make you feel thankful than I don’t know what will. Also, people get so focused on results and competing. I realized the only person you are competing with is yourself and in that scenario you always win. The finish line is only the start of a new race. “Training is the fun part” is my motto. 

Is there anything else you want to share?

I’ve got a little boy, Leo, and I stopped drinking a long time before he came into my life, and the same with my wife, Katie. The choices I make every day have accumulated to what I’ve achieved in this world. I was lost and selfish and the town lush. Alcohol took my self-respect, trust of others and my health. By just getting rid of that ONE thing, I’ve got all of that back and more. Running was my vehicle to recovery and I’m a happier person because of that. After all is said and done my family wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for me making good choices every day. I hope appreciates that later in life. 

Visit to a list of upcoming races with the NF Endurance Team.