Huntsville man overcomes cancer to train for upcoming Boston Marathon

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - On April 16th, a Huntsville man will attempt his lifelong dream of running in the Boston Marathon. His story proves that anyone can overcome adversity to achieve their dreams, and victory can be even sweeter when you accept help along the way.

Scott Claflin didn't even start running until he was 51, but that's when this journey began.

"I decided I needed to jump-start my metabolism, and running seemed like the thing to do," he said. "One day I just decided to jog around the block. Almost gave me a heart attack," he joked, "but that was the start of it all."

Claflin said it was a slow build from a few minutes to a few miles, to some races. He climbed from 5k's to marathons.

"At the Rocket City Marathon in 2016, I qualified-- ran a race fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon," he explained. "I was elated! I was hugging my wife and crying, I was in tears after that race. A lifelong goal, to reach this late in life? I was thrilled."

But his joy would be strangled by another life event, but this one was not so good. The day after he received word he was accepted to run in the marathon, he got some devastating news about his health.

"The next day, I was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in my abdomen," he said. "It was the first week of October of 2017, five months ago. I was devastated. At that point, the thought of running Boston was secondary. I was thinking, 'What does this mean for my family?'"

His cancer was aggressive and surrounded several of his internal organs. Claflin said he had to put his dream aside for a while. He underwent surgery that removed many of his organs and rendered his training plan impossible.

"Five months ago, I couldn't walk without assistance," he explained.

The recovery took Claflin longer than he thought it would, but he pushed through. Then: "I decided, 'Well, Boston is coming up. I can walk. Let's see what I can do,'" he said. "On January 21, I was finally able to jog, very slowly, for one mile and stop. I was completely out of breath, but I thought, 'I only have to build 25 more miles on top of that.'"

Claflin is humble about his impressive determination. He said he added 2 miles every weekend of training through the past two months in order to make it up to 20 miles at a time.  His diagnosis could not keep him down.

Claflin will head to Boston for the race, which is on Monday. His family will join him. He has had his workplace and coworkers at Aerojet Rocketdyne, his church family, and his friends beside him every step of the way.

"I know I'll start the marathon! I guess whether I finish or not, we'll see," he said good-naturedly.  Just getting to this point is a triumph for him, and for any athlete.

Claflin is Director of Advance Concepts for Aerojet Rocketdyne. His group is also known as Power Innovations. Claflin's group works in prototypes, migrating rocket technologies into nontraditional markets. He constantly works with new technology.

But this journey, in his spare time, has taught him a lot too. He hopes it will inspire you.

"I had a dream as a teenager of running the Boston Marathon. I've been faced with a lot of adversity. But with the help of friends, and family, and colleagues, it looks like it's going to make it. Put your head down, work hard, and maybe your dreams will come true."

Claflin's health isn't in the clear just yet, but he knows he is living every day one step at a time.

Many runners will admit it's not something they love to do, but the feeling is one-of-a-kind. He runs to clear his mind and push his body, but he always carries something with him on those trips outdoors: "I never forget how far I've come, particularly in this healing process," he said. "It is a team effort to get me to Boston. I can't escape that. I think about that all the time, and it just warms my heart," he said.