The marathon gold medalist from the Sydney Olympic Games, Gezahegn Abera, has learned of what Mark is doing and is sending him a letter of encouragement and thanks for his efforts on behalf of children impacted by HIV/AIDS in Africa.  Abera recently married another Ethiopian elite marathoner and they are something of a celebrity couple in that country where they are promoting a pro-abstinence and fidelity message to help combat AIDS.


He believes his first marathon marked only the second time a person with a mechanical heart valve had finished a race of that length. He also believes Victoria will make him the only such person to do it twice.


“God makes us strong in our weakness," says Wagner. "For me it is not becoming strong physically after my heart surgery that really matters. I guess what I am trying to say is, you cannot cheat a marathon. Sometimes I would find myself running at 3 or 4 in the morning, in the rain and cold. Some people would think that's nuts. They may be right. But you have to follow a scheduled training plan, or you will never break that wall, 19 miles into the race. That same endurance I have to complete a marathon, is the same endurance I should have in my spiritual life with Christ Jesus; in my prayer life, my devotional life, and my daily walk with Jesus."


Anyone interested in contributing (pledging $1 per mile would equal $26 if he finishes the 26-mile event) can mail a tax-deductible donation to 2nd Chance: A Run for Hope; World Vision; P.O. Box 9716, Stop 323; Federal Way, WA 98063-9716. Online, go to to reach Wagner.