Kenan Bal was born and raised in Queens as a first-generation American. His mother and father immigrated to the United States at ages 18 and 22, respectively. Kenan’s father, Ekrem, instilled the values of family and a strong work ethic when his sons were young. “My father and I drove into the city together for work every single day,” Kenan recalls. “He worked on the Upper East Side, and I on the Upper West. However, he refused to drive me to the west side. He wanted me to ‘be a man’ and learn the value of hard work, so I walked through the park, regardless of the weather, every day for 12 years.”
In 2013, Ekrem, was diagnosed with lung cancer. “My father was so strong,” says Kenan. “He fought the disease every day as if it was just a minor cold, even going into work while he was receiving chemo.” Kenan began running as a means to stay in shape and clear his mind, especially as it related to his father’s battle with the disease.
A fighter to the end, Ekrem succumbed to the disease this past April. “For three years he never complained,” says Kenan. “He was determined to fight and not show weakness. If I’m having a bad day running or if I’m too tired to go that extra mile, I think of all the hardship he went through without complaining, and I am able to push myself.”
Kenan, his brother, and his sister-in-law will all be running the TCS New York City Marathon in honor of their father. This will be Kenan’s second TCS New York City Marathon, and his fourth marathon overall.