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Francestown’s 5K run for Rick

  • This year's Francestown Five Labor Day road race is dedicated to Rick Leandri, a dedicated runner and Francestown Five supporter who died last year. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • This year’s Francestown Five Labor Day road race is dedicated to Rick Leandri, a dedicated runner and Francestown Five supporter who died last year.

  • This year's Francestown Five Labor Day road race is dedicated to Rick Leandri , a dedicated runner and Francestown Five supporter who died last year. Courtesy photo—

  • Rick Leandri was an avid runner and organizer of the Francestown Five Labor Day 5K. Courtesy photo



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, August 30, 2017 8:56PM

For 35 years, Richard “Rick” Leandri ran. He started running when he was in high school and throughout his life. He competed in two marathons, several half marathons, and was part of a local running group.

He ran up until he was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) and Lyme disease in 2013. The ALS limited his mobility, forced him to use a wheelchair, and eventually, led to his death last fall. He was 57.

For many years, Rick volunteered at the Francestown Five Road Race. This year, the race is being dedicated to him.

“He was a great runner and a big volunteer for the road race,” said Race Director Paula Hunter. She said this is the first time they have ever dedicated the race to an individual.

The race will be held on Monday as part of the annual Francestown Labor Day Celebration, which is marking its 100 anniversary this year. The race starts on Ball Fields, which is located on Old County Road South, at 9 a.m.

His wife, Vicki, said she was in disbelief when Rick was diagnosed with ALS and Lyme disease.

For their whole lives, she said he ate well and exercised.

“We did everything we were supposed to,” she said.

And it worked for some time.

“There was never anything wrong with him,” Vicki said. “I was always the one who got sick.”

But then Rick was diagnosed with ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, and Lyme disease.

“He just accepted it, and I was going on with the Lyme thing. I said, ‘Oh, no, no, no. You have Lyme, you’re going to get over this,’” Vicki said.

It took three years for the disease to take hold and lead to a rapid decline.

“It was a pretty quick decline,” she said.

Rick started losing basic functions. Eventually, he couldn’t walk and then he couldn’t turn over in bed.

Vicki said Rick was never bitter, never angry.

“He was very grateful for the life he had,” she said.

And, she said, those three years after he was diagnosed were good ones. She said they shared a lot of laughs together and had great help throughout.

“We had a lot of special times,” she said.

Vicki said ALS changed the way Rick expressed emotion. Before the diagnosis, she said, he wasn’t very emotional, but after, he would cry and laugh more impulsively.

“These past three years, everything I said he would laugh at,” Vicki said. “I got to humor him, which was huge for me. We probably had more laughs in those three years than in all of our years of marriage.”

Vicki said the experience was obviously very difficult, but they became more connected in that time.

“We really connected so deeply,” she said about their time together post-diagnosis.

After battling the disease for about three years, Rick died last October.

Now, almost a year later, Vicki is struggling with what to do with his things.

“There’s just stuff you’re going to hang on to, maybe forever. It makes it more like, that’s it, he’s completely gone, which is weird,” she said.

This weekend, she said some family members are coming to volunteer in the road race, which is dedicated in Rick’s honor. She’ll give Rick’s favorite hats to his brothers this weekend.

That’ll be something.

The Francestown Five starts at 9 a.m. on Monday. For more information about the race, visit www.francestownfive.com.