Chicago’s Kurt Diana is a longtime runner who will run the Christie Clinic Illinois Half Marathon for the third time on April 30. He appreciates the personalized bibs, the spectators shouting his name as he passes by and the finish at Memorial Stadium.
“The support is just excellent throughout,” said Diana.
During this year’s half marathon, however, Diana will focus on her late son, Mike.
Mike died in February 2021 of fentanyl poisoning at the age of 28. He wasn’t a runner, but he was a high school hockey player who wore the number 28 on his jersey. Kurt Diana will wear bib number 28 during the race. Through her run, Diana hopes to spread Mike’s story and keep his memory alive.
“I hope to get the message out, in a modest way, about the dangers of fentanyl and how it can happen to anyone and how horrible it is in this country,” he said.
Mike and his girlfriend had a 3-year-old son, Alex, and they were talking about getting married. But he had addiction issues and died after taking Xanax containing fentanyl, Diana said.
“He had issues with depression and anxiety, and he self-medicated. It happened so innocently, it seemed. All of a sudden you find yourself with addiction issues. People are looking for some kind of relief, and when they find it, one thing leads to another very quickly. With fentanyl in the mix, it’s going to kill a lot of people, and that’s such a shame,” Diana said.
“Fentanyl is mixed with opioids, Xanax and cannabis, and it has a good chance of being fatal. Drug overdose is the leading cause of death among 18-45 year olds, and 42% of fatal overdoses are due to fentanyl,” he said.
Diana began giving presentations to school groups about the dangers of fentanyl, working with other parents he met in a bereavement group for people who lost children to drug overdoses. . He is now developing his own presentations, with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Diana’s wife, Patty, one of their twin daughters, Katie, and Mike’s girlfriend, Mireya, will be in Champaign-Urbana to watch the race.
Running helps Diana cope with Mike’s death.
“I probably run more now than I have in a long time. That’s a lot of stress relief. I definitely rely on the race to get through the tough times,” Diana said.
“I think a lot of Mike when I run. I run along the lake. I travel a lot and run along the beaches of Florida. It’s a good time to talk to him.