Common Man to Ironman

Part 2

Robert Skorupski is a Spartan in Michigan territory and shares his story on how and why he decided to raise money for pancreatic cancer research at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center. You can find out more about his and his families journey on his blog or his Facebook page.



There were two major fundraising efforts this year. The first one was a golf outing we held in Ralph’s honor.  Golf was a true passion of Ralph’s. He loved the game of golf, so we could not think of a better way to pay tribute to him and raise money for Pancreatic Cancer research. This event was held on August 2nd at Lyon Oaks Gold Course (a golf course Ralph was instrumental in developing prior to retiring as the Executive Officer of Oakland County Parks and Recreation). The golf outing was a huge hit.  We had over 70 sponsors and 200 people in attendance (including Ralph’s UMCCC doctors) to golf, eat and share stories about Ralph! The proceeds from this event went to the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, specifically for pancreatic cancer research. Ralph would have been honored to see the showing of family and friends at this event.

The second fundraising event was a personal goal that I wanted to accomplish. I decided to sign-up for the Ironman Louisville.  For those that don’t know, an Ironman consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike race and a 26.2 mile marathon all rolled into one.  In one day, no break!  140.6 miles total in less than 17 hours!

Ralph was an athlete most of his life. He loved sports. This was an area that bonded us.  I knew that I would have to use Ralph’s mental determination as an example to endure this type of event. Only 1/10th of 1% of the entire world’s population can say they have completed an IronMan.

Preparing for this event required long hours of training. By the time the race day came I swam over 100 miles, biked over 2700 miles and ran 730 miles. I trained for over 360 hours and over 3,500 miles. If I started from my house I would be in Anchorage, Alaska!  Not a training session went by that I did not think of Ralph and the toughness he showed in his battle with cancer.

I made a promise to my Wolverine friends that if $5,000 was raised for UMCCC in Ralph’s name that I (a true SPARTAN) would wear a University of Michigan jersey during my IronMan race. When I made that statement I wasn’t sure it would be possible to raise that much money, however by the day of the race we raised almost $15,000 for the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center! Without hesitation, I wore that UM jersey during the race. I have to admit, this Spartan wore it with pride knowing that I was able to help such a good cause and I will wear it again for $25,000, not a penny less!

Our entire family learned about fortitude and perseverance as we witnessed the positive attitude Ralph had after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He accepted it as one more challenge in his life, and was willing to take on whatever the doctors offered him by way of treatment or procedures.  He was an inspiration to us all. His oncologist at U of M told us that he will use Ralph as a model for others facing this diagnosis. He said Ralph’s belief in God, his mental determination, and his will to live was a true inspiration.

Learn more about pancreatic cancer and pancreatic cancer patients