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Joe Drake on How Parkinson’s Is His Superpower

Joe Drake Tokyo Marathon

When my neurologist diagnosed me in 2018 at age 57, she told me that vigorous exercise was the best therapy for my Parkinson’s disease (PD).   

I took that to heart. Though I have always been a runner, it was never for more than about six miles at a time. With the diagnosis of PD, I decided to double down and turned to running marathons. Running and the medications I take have rendered my symptoms mild and the progression of the disease has slowed down if not stopped. To date, I’ve finished a total of 17 marathons.   

In 2021, I took on the World Marathon Majors (WMM) when the six races were stuffed into a crazy-short six-week stretch in the fall.   

Some of them were not easy to get into. I had an accomplice, however. (Maybe enabler is a better term.) Team Fox of The Michael J. Fox Foundation secured my entries into the Boston, London and New York City marathons in exchange for fundraising.  

There are people living with this pernicious disease whose every moment is a challenge. As a Team Fox member, I can help them. While taking on this over-the-top adventure in 2021, I gladly raised $38,000 for Parkinson’s research.  

Such exploits have convinced me that Parkinson’s is my superpower. But superpowers don’t come for free. Superman has kryptonite. Batman was orphaned by the murder of his parents as a child. The Hulk has serious anger management issues. In lieu of a cure, PD will eventually do me in.  

In the meantime, though, PD has given me a fresh perspective and purpose: “Life’s short. Be audacious.”  My newfound audacity relishes taking on ridiculous physical challenges that raise awareness of the disease while funding the research that will bring about its demise. 

My 2021 WMM challenge was epic. Yet, it was also anticlimactic because Tokyo cancelled their event that year thus leaving me one marathon short of earning my sixth star. Closure finally came in March 2023 when I added the Tokyo Marathon to my resume and hung the Six Star Medal around my neck.  

Joe Drake's medals on display
My WMM medals from 2021 and on the far right, Tokyo 2023. 

As proud as I am about the accomplishment, I am not yet satisfied.  

This year, 2023, I’m attempting to run all six of the WMM in a single calendar year. To date, only 84 athletes have achieved this feat. I've already got Tokyo and just completed Boston on Monday, April 17. On Sunday (less than a week from finishing Boston), I will take on London again and, in the fall, I'll run in Berlin, Chicago and New York City.

And once more, Team Fox is enabling me with entries (to London and New York City). They’ll be out on each course ringing cowbells for me, cheering me on and supporting me as I run to cure Parkinson’s.   


Joe Drake running in London marathon for Team Fox
Joe Drake running in the 2021 London Marathon for Team Fox.

Follow along as Joe completes all of the World Marathon Majors in 2023.

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