For boy with brain tumor, some races don’t have a finish line

LAYTON — Lota Ward knows suffering.

The 10-year-old understands that he can’t just endure pain. If he wants to transform it, he has to embrace it. The Layton fourth-grader knows what many adults don’t because he’s had effective teachers in the sport he loves and the tumor he hates.

Lota was just 7 when he convinced his parents to let him run a 13-mile trail race. The mental frustration and physical pain of the half-marathon through Park City’s mountains only seemed to energize the child as his goals became grander, the distances longer.

Just when it seemed he was hitting his stride in a sport that gave him both purpose and joy, Lota was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It was a week before his 8th birthday, a month after he’d won an XTERRA National Trail Half Marathon Championship and five months before he was supposed to run his first 50-miler.

Between his diagnosis in October and the end of January, he had three brain surgeries, each time exhibiting such resilience and courage that he became an almost iconic figure in Utah’s trail running community.

Training alongside his father in February of 2015, it seemed the worst was behind him.

It was not.

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