Acute leukemia survivor Peter Kirk to run 250th half marathon, with goal of 1,000

Brittany Bell Image
Thursday, March 14, 2024
Acute leukemia survivor to run 250th half marathon, with goal of 1,000
Brittany Bell has more on Peter Kirk's amazing story.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Peter Kirk is no stranger to going the distance.

Running the 2024 United Airlines NYC Half will be quite normal for him, considering he runs two half marathons almost every week.

But four years ago, it was a very different story.

"Luckily at this point, it was three and a half years ago, but easily the scariest thing that ever happened to me," Kirk said. "But, one week I started throwing up and it was a little unusual but it wasn't just once it was like once or twice a day, so I went to see my hematologist."

It was news he didn't expect.

"When the test results came back I was sitting there in the chair and he was like, 'Peter, this can't be right,'" He said. "My breathing started going down because not only did I have acute leukemia I also had double lung pneumonia."

Hospitalized at the peak of the COVID pandemic and immunocompromised, Kirk's health went downhill quickly.

"They put me in the ICU, put me in an artificial coma, intubated me and within 24 hours of that they called a priest in the room and told my wife I was the sickest person at the ICU in NYU," Kirk said. "I always thought I was a strong person, but I think my wife is 10 times stronger than me. She was a rock and she was there for me even though I wasn't there, I was in a coma."

Thankfully, Kirk managed to come out of the coma and qualify for the treatment that would save his life: a stem cell bone marrow transplant.

"I got the transplant on June 9, 2021, eight months after the whole ICU debacle intubation and when I came out, you're decimated. Like you're happy it went well, and the doctors tell you you're cured of leukemia, which is just a miracle, but you're just decimated," he said. "I lost 35 pounds. I couldn't open a Coke can initially or the fridge. I just slowly started getting back and after about two months, I was like it's time to try go for a run."

But, Kirk only made it 200 meters before he had to head home.

So, instead of giving up, he set an even bigger goal.

"As I was walking home, I was thinking, what do I do now? Just be happy you survived, just be happy with your family. Maybe start doing some old-man exercises. But then within a few seconds, I go, I need a big goal, you're going to run the New York Marathon," Kirk said.

That's when he started sharing his story online and really got inspired.

"That's really been the momentum and the reason that's been driving me forward not just to do the marathon initially but to keep inspiring people and do 1,000 half marathons by the 10th anniversary of my stem cell transplant," he said.

One thousand half marathons in 10 years -- that's about one half marathon every three and a half days.

And when Kirk crosses the finish line at the United Airlines NYC Half, that will be number 250.

"So, I was a happy guy before I had cancer. I think I was a nice guy, like thinking about myself, my family, my friends, like most people do, but after this happened, I feel like I have this need, like I have to do something to inspire people," he said.

Along the way, he is running to inspire people and raise money for the medical research that helped save his life.

"I'm really honored to be here to take part of it and really honored to share I, and God I keep thinking only 750 to go," Kirk said.

How to Watch

The event will be covered locally in the tri-state area by ABC New York, Channel 7 with live news cut-ins from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. The four professional fields will be covered by a livestream, distributed internationally from NYRR's digital channels,, ESPN+ and ESPN International, beginning at 7:00 a.m. ET. Reporting live from the Start, Finish, and Times Square will be WABC sports anchors Ryan Field and Sam Ryan, and meteorologist Brittany Bell. Joining the WABC team will be U.S. Olympian Carrie Tollefson, and Peloton Instructor Becs Gentry.

Download the App

The United Airlines NYC Half Mobile App Powered by TCS provides users the opportunity to track their runners on the course and will be available for download on iOS and Android. Fans can watch an uninterrupted live stream of all four professional athlete races and a live look at the finish line throughout race day.

Virtual United Airlines NYC Half Powered by Strava

Runners unable to make it to New York can still participate in the event virtually, running the 13.1-mile distance anywhere around the world at their convenience from March 9 to 17. Participants who complete the Guaranteed Entry tier will earn entry to the 2025 United Airlines NYC Half, and those who register for the Medal Tier will be shipped a finisher medal after completing the race.

To learn more, visit