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This Nixon steps to plate for charity

By Dan Shaughnessy, Globe Staff, Globe Columnist, 4/17/2000

wo athletes, husband and wife. He's wearing No. 7. She's been issued No. 18155.

She'll hop on a bus near Copley Square at dawn and ride out to the starting line in Hopkinton. He'll drive to Fenway Park and check the lineup card to see if he's batting second, playing right field against the Oakland A's.

Trot Nixon's game starts at 11 a.m. and should be over around 2 p.m. Kathryn Nixon's race starts at noon and she hopes to be cutting through Kenmore Square around 4 p.m.

He plays for the Red Sox. She's running for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's Marathon Challenge. He works to fulfill the hopes and dreams of Red Sox Nation. She runs for all who have succumbed to cancer, thousands of survivors, and all who'll be affected in the future. It is the noblest of causes.

The plan calls for Trot to take a postgame shower and hustle to Copley Square so he can be there when his wife crosses the finish line of the 104th Boston Marathon. The Sox will be chartering to Detroit at that hour, but Nixon has permission to take a commercial flight tonight.

Kathryn and Trot are North Carolinians who have been married for three years. This is his second full season in the major leagues and it didn't take his wife long to align herself with New England's favorite charity.

''I've always wanted to run a marathon,'' she said. ''I looked it up on the Internet and found out that I could run for charity. When I saw Dana-Faber, it was instant. I said to myself, `This is what I've got to do.' I've lost so many family members and relatives of friends to cancer. So this was perfect. I called and got signed up.''

Approximately 400 Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge runners will raise more than $2 million for cancer research. In 10 years the team has raised $8.1 million and Kathryn Nixon has already gathered pledges of more than $22,000. Fifty of the Challenge participants run in the name of patient partners. Kathryn will run in memory of Belmont's Derek Setterlund, who died of a brain tumor before his third birthday in 1997.

Roy Setterlund, Derek's dad, said, ''We're very touched and very proud that Kathryn has volunteered to run, not only for Derek, but that she's considerate enough to raise money for Dana-Farber to help other kids.''

The Setterlunds met with Kathryn and Trot yesterday afternoon at the Westin Hotel at a Marathon Challenge patient-partner meal.

Kathryn is excited and ready to go. She'll wear a Red Sox cap. Under the cap she'll have her hair bunched in a wide ribbon inscribed with the names of Derek and others she's honoring. The names furnish more fuel and stamina than pasta and months of training. Team Dana-Farber never quits.

Kathryn was a dancer and cheerleader at North Carolina State and remembers losing her grandmother and cheerleading coach to cancer. Former Wolfpack basketball coach Jim Valvano, who won the NCAA tournament in 1983, also succumbed to the disease.

''I'm excited for her,'' said Trot. ''She's running for a special cause. She's invested a great deal of time, putting in long, hard hours.''

Distance running has never been a strength for the aptly named Trot.

''I can't train with her,'' he admitted. ''I go 11/2 miles and it's like, `I'll see you on the flip side.' I like to drive. I'd much rather drive the 26 miles.''

''I'd have to say the training for running the Marathon is very strenuous,'' said Kathryn. ''But I should have given Trot more credit. He can run. He ran the bases pretty hard Friday night and I thought, `Oh, my goodness. I guess he is a runner.'''

Trot's contributions go beyond moral support. When the Red Sox flew a red-eye home after completing their West Coast trip in Anaheim, Calif., the right fielder dragged himself out of bed to do seven promotional radio interviews with the other athlete in the family.

Before moving to Boston, Kathryn was the one asking the questions, working in production for ESPN and ESPN2. Auto racing was her specialty, but she never worked on-air.

''Not with this accent,'' she said, sounding like one of Andy Taylor's girlfriends from Mayberry.

Running with Challenge team members, Kathryn reached the peak of her training with a 20-mile run. She tapered off this week, running 5 miles Monday, 6 Wednesday, and 3 Friday. She took the weekend off and loaded up on carbs - particularly pizza. She hopes to finish in four hours.

''I've met so many wonderful people through this, I'm not even nervous,'' she said. ''I'm so anxious for the race. I can't wait. It's a race for life.''

Anyone wishing to contribute to the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge can send a check - payable to DMFC - to the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge, 44 Binney St., LG 100, Boston, MA 02115.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist.

This story ran on page E1 of the Boston Globe on 4/17/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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