Beloved wife’s death inspires TCS New York City Marathon runner to set ambitious goal

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NEW YORK CITY (WABC) --

More than 50,000 runners are about to take over the five boroughs in the TCS New York City Marathon, and each participant has his or her unique motivation.

For one man, the death of his wife has inspired him to set an ambitious goal -- to spread awareness about early detection of lung cancer.

Running with a passion, a purpose and reflecting on an emotional past, Yasir Salem has a heavy heart as he prepares for the race.

"This year's marathon is going to mean a lot more to me without her," he said. "This marathon means so much to both of us, so me doing that here and her in spirit, it's hard for me to predict what that's going to be like."

The woman who was his inspiration, his wife Gwen, died this summer after a battle with lung cancer. She had previously survived a brain tumor, and after that, the couple encouraged each other to enjoy life.

"When Gwen got sick in 2008, we set the goal up of running the marathon in 2010," he said.

And they did, joining forces to run eight marathons together, including last year's New York City Marathon.

"That last bit, we'd make sure to cross the line together," he said.

Her death has inspired Yasir to run with a cause, running 50 marathons in 50 states in a year to raise money for early testing of lung cancer.

"During that time, I'm going to be raising money for the organization to get low dose CT scans to raise awareness that anybody can get lung cancer," he said.

Gwen was not a smoker. She was a doer, soaring in her educational goals. She also wrote a song, with lyrics that will to playing in Yasir's mind when he runs past the spot in Central Park near the end of the race where he proposed to his wife in 2013.

"This is the spot, this is where it happened," he said. "At the end of the race, I want to come here and remember that moment."

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