Empower’s Rob Steger conquered a ‘401K’ to help conquer cancer
Rob Steger ran, and ran and ran.
Because when you’re running for a coworker’s daughter fighting cancer, there is no finish line.
“There was no way I was going to quit,” said Steger, an investment analyst at Empower Retirement. “This was all for a greater purpose.”
Steger just conquered his #401KforCancer as part of the Moab 240 Endurance Run this past October. Along with the Bigfoot 200 and Tahoe 200, he completed the Triple Crown of 200s in a three-month stretch that totaled nearly 650 miles on foot and countless days of training.
But this one was extra special.
With a sponsorship from Empower and contributions from many associates, Steger has helped raise almost $70,000 for histiocytosis research. Histiocytosis is a rare illness that causes the body to produce too many white blood cells, which can lead to tumors, lesions and other tissue damage.
“The donations have been very generous,” Steger said. “It’s been overwhelming and fulfilling.”
All funds have benefitted the Histiocytosis Program within the Cancer and Hematology Centers at Texas Children’s Hospital, the largest histiocytosis treatment program in the world. Empower also made its own corporate donation and matched employee donations of at least $50.
“I don’t think I could have done this without Empower,” said Steger, a professional runner who sported Empower Retirement logos on his attire for the Moab 240. “It was huge to have their support.”
It’s that support that helped turned Steger’s #401KforCancer into reality.
Steger’s coworker and friend, Robyn, has a 9-year-old daughter who has been battling an extremely rare histiocytosis brain tumor since May (she’s currently in the fourth round of 12 months of chemotherapy). Robyn said only a small group of kids in the world have this type of tumor and in this location, which is why it doesn’t attract a lot of dollars or research.
Until now, she hopes.
“It’s been powerful — Empower’s sponsorship of his fundraising efforts and race,” Robyn said. “We’ve used it as a platform to reach so many more people than we would have had we done something on our own.”
Once Steger found out Robyn’s daughter had a new tumor (she'd had a tumor surgically removed in April 2018), he wanted to help. So he dedicated the Moab 240 to her with a creative catch. He would run an extra seven-plus miles before the race even started to make it a 401K (401 kilometers).
With that clever tie-in to the retirement industry, Steger began his extraordinary journey at 4:30 a.m. October 10 and ended at 7:30 p.m. October 14. He guesses he slept only three to five hours during the event, which he finished in 19th place out of potentially 130 registered participants.
“You have highs and lows,” said Steger, who has now run 25 ultramarathons. “The lows were made it easier by having perspective anytime I was suffering. I knew Robyn’s family was suffering a lot more. You’re out there exploring your own limits. It can be hard, but I wasn’t in it for myself.
“I think I got an athletic boost from it.”
A final boost came when Robyn’s three daughters met Steger with about a mile left to join him for the home stretch.
“It was amazing to watch,” Robyn said. “To think about what he has done for her and what she is going through, and then to see her be a part of it by running the last piece of the race with him, that was incredible.”
Steger said his next feat is the 330-mile California Untamed in July 2020. The ultramarathon's website touts it as “the longest, most extreme endurance foot race in the Continental United States.”
But that’s nothing compared to cancer.
“Although I finished the 401K race and the fundraising efforts have been amazing, (Robyn’s daughter) is still battling,” Steger said. “I’ll celebrate once she crosses her finish line.”