Joe Drake might not be able to defeat Parkinson’s disease, but he certainly has slowed it down.

The West Seattle resident did it by speeding up and running. And running and running and running.

Drake, 60, completed his sixth marathon — including five of the world’s biggest — in six weeks by finishing the 26.2-mile New York Marathon on Sunday, Nov. 7.

“Parkinson’s disease is a disease that responds well to vigorous exercise as a therapy,” said Drake, who runs for Team Fox, which is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease. “It helps to release dopamine, which is the chemical that is missing in a lot of Parkinson’s patients. By running, you generate that from other parts of the brain that are not damaged by the disease.”

When Drake was diagnosed in 2018 with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement, he took his running to another level.

“I had been a runner my whole life but had never done much more than a 10K run,” Drake said. “It wasn’t until after the Parkinson’s diagnosis that I doubled down on running and I decided to challenge myself: first a half-marathon and then a marathon.”


After completing his first marathon in December 2019, Drake was looking for a new challenge, and he came up with an idea. The bucket list for marathon runners includes the world majors — Berlin, London, Chicago, Boston, Tokyo and New York — and Drake decided to do them, but with a twist.

“A lot of people have the ability to run these six marathons, but sometimes it takes years to do it,” Drake said. “I decided I wanted to try to do them all in a single year, and I think there are less than 30 who have done that. I decided I wanted to do it in 2021, the year I turned 60.”

The marathons were scheduled over a period of about nine months, but that schedule changed because of COVID-19, with postponements meaning all six were set to take place within six weeks of each other.

“But I had this goal and I decided I was going to go through with my goal, even though it became a lot harder to do them all,” said Drake, whose best marathon time is 3 hours, 42 minutes.

The gantlet began Sept. 26 with the Berlin Marathon. A week later, he finished the London Marathon. Then came the toughest challenge: running in the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 10 and the Boston Marathon on Oct. 11.

After finishing the London Marathon on Oct. 3, Drake flew to Boston to get his race bib because it would be too late for him to get it if he waited until after the Chicago Marathon.


He then flew to Chicago, and right after finishing that race he flew back to Boston, where he conquered the very challenging 26.2-mile course the next day.

“I was extremely tired, but it was kind of a rush at the same time,” Drake said of how he felt after finishing the Boston race.

The next race on the schedule, the Tokyo Marathon on Oct. 17, was postponed a second time, this time to March, spoiling Drake’s quest to compete in all of the six major marathons in a calendar year.

That did not mean a break for Drake, however. On Oct. 17, the day he had planned to race in Tokyo, Drake competed in the Seattle virtual marathon, running 26.2 miles in West Seattle.

After five marathons in three countries in three weeks, Drake had three weeks before the New York Marathon, the final leg of his six-week odyssey.

“I am actually feeling pretty good, having three weeks since my previous marathon,” Drake said Monday. “This is like relative luxury.”


Drake, who runs up to 55 miles a week during training, said he doesn’t know “how many more insane challenges I am going to give myself. ” But Drake said he will continue to run and wants to compete in the Tokyo Marathon in March and in the next Boston Marathon in April.

He likes the challenge of running and he likes what it does in his battle against Parkinson’s.

“I feel like my disease has not progressed as quickly as it has for a lot of other people and my symptoms are way subdued by running and by the medication that I take,” said Drake, a retired engineer. “If you look at me, you wouldn’t think of Parkinson’s.

“I think this combination has made it a lot better and I would like to share it with other people. I want to let them know that if you’ve gotten the Parkinson’s diagnosis, that it’s not the end of the world and that there are ways to deal with it. “