The Greatest Run
July 4th, 1986

Joe Bieschke beat cancer on May 19th, 1986. He had spent the previous 6 weeks in the hospital undergoing aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatment to eradicate Burkitt's Lymphoma, a rare form of cancer. Joe was discharged from the hospital with no detectable trace of cancer in his body.

Joe had a clean bill of health and was ready to move on. The courageous 16-year-old was anxious to grow his hair back, gain back the 30 pounds of muscle he lost, and return to athletically competitive form. The first item on his agenda: run the Bluegrass 10k held on July 4th in Lexington, Ky.

But 10 days later he was back in the hospital. Within another couple weeks, the cancer spread to his ribs and legs and he started a new round of treatments. A few more days passed and it spread to his reproductive system. On July 1st, he was given the largest dose of radiation to date and doctors informed Joe that he would never have children.

For most anyone else, this news would have put a 6.2 mile race, held 3 days later, at the bottom of his priorities. For Joe, it solidified his resolve to compete. He was going to finish or collapse trying.

Joe started the race with great intentions; he planned to slowly jog the entire course. He knew he wasn't going to break 40 minutes like he expected the previous year - he knew he wasn't even going to break an hour. He didn't want anyone to walk with him, but his doctors insisted that he be accompanied by one person on each side.

The race started and within only a few yards, Joe's pace slowed to a walk. Within a couple miles, the other 3,000 runners were in front of him. When he reached his grandmother, Granann, waiting for him at the 3-mile mark, she pleaded with him to stop. "I'm going all the way," he responded.

Three grueling miles later, with the finish line in sight, Joe's racing instincts took over and he started his 'sprint'. More than 2 hours had passed since the race started and the remaining crowd consisted only of volunteers cleaning up the area. They cleared a path and erupted in applause as Joe crossed the finish line.

Joe's triumphant finish inspired our community and they rallied behind him spiritually and financially. Everyone wanted to see him overcome the odds one more time. Even when the end was near, Joe continued to fight. He never gave up.

Joe died 3 months after finishing the Bluegrass 10k but his courageous run initiated the Joe Bieschke Fun Run that lasted 16 years - one for each year of Joe's life - and benefited patients at the UK Children's Hospital. Although the Joe Bieschke Fun Run has ceased, the Joe Bieschke Memorial Fund still benefits kids fighting cancer today.

For people watching him cross the finish line in photos or on video today, he's very much alive - inspiring us to attempt the impossible, and to never give up.


- Joe Bieschke crosses finish line on July 4th, 1986
- Louise (mother) at left, Jeff (friend) following

Video of Joe crossing the finish line
Click here to watch Joe's courageous finish on video


Joe Bieschke Memorial Fund
Donations benefit the University of Kentucky Children's Hospital

Donate online using PayPal:
- We appreciate any donation amount
- Use your credit card or PayPal account (optional)
- Click the "PayPal Donate" button below
You can also write a check to:
Joe Bieschke Memorial Fund
And send to:
Patrick and Louise Bieschke
11408 Pomering Rd.
Downey, CA 90241

Current Joe Bieschke Memorial Fund projects
We continue to support the Joe Bieschke Adolescent Lounge with new music and entertainment features for patients in the UK Children's Hospital.
Click here to read about the Joe Bieschke Adolescent Lounge Dedication in 2001

Contact Us
Click here to email the Bieschke family