RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A North Carolina man is back home a week after running the New York City Marathon.

Lee Walls, who lives in Alamance County, says he drew inspiration from his 14-year-old son, who faced a battle more grueling than any race.

Lee Walls hasn’t always been a runner. In fact, he really only started jogging a few years ago, as a kind of coping mechanism.

“I just needed an outlet, and running sort of became that outlet for me,” he explained.

Doctors diagnosed Walls’ son, Nathanial, with leukemia in 2019.

“It was really sudden, and it hit the family really hard,” he said. “It was hard to have to be on the sidelines to watch him battle this disease.”

Walls supported Nathanial in his fight against leukemia, and Nathanial, who loves sports, supported his dad as his morning jogs turned into 5Ks, 10-mile races, then half marathons.

Then, Walls thought to himself, “A marathon is only two half marathons. It’s just double. It shouldn’t be that much more difficult.”

His first marathon proved that wrong.

“It was awful and miserable, and I was in pain,” he recalled. “But the minute I was done, I wanted to do another one.”

The New York City Marathon was his fifth. At his son’s suggestion, Walls ran in support of the V Foundation For Cancer Research.

“They funded the day hospital where my son had most of his treatment, and they had a real physical impact on much of his treatment and I can’t thank them enough,” Walls said.

Any marathon is grueling, but for Walls, it was more than that.

“It’s humbling because whatever I was going through it was a) my choice but b) was going to be over fairly quickly.”

He knew Nathanial had neither of those comforts in his battle.

“He’s the strongest person I’ve ever met,” Walls said of his son.

Nearly four years after Nathanial’s diagnosis, his strength inspires his dad to keep going when a race gets tough.

“The type of perspective you get on life from sleeping on the floor of a children’s pediatric ward is a perspective that no one should have, but a lot of us do,” Walls noted.

That perspective made the sight of his son, who is now cancer free, even sweeter as he cheered him on from the sidelines. The New York City Marathon was the first marathon Nathanial watched his dad run.

“To be able to be together and celebrate as a family was fabulous,” said Walls. “It was magical.”