Saturday, May 10, 2014
Today he was the hammer...Today he finished the race!
He weighed 195 pounds at 4'4" tall, and was a self proclaimed video game addict suffering from severe sleep apnea when he decided to save his own life five years ago. He had been advised against running because of the risk of injury as a Little Person. But that didn't stop John Young from competing in Sprint Triathalons, Half Iron Man Distances and taking on the Boston Marathon.
Last year, he and Juli Windsor were stopped just shy of the Boston Marathon finish line. Their moving and riveting story is told in this article in Runner's World Big: The Story of Two Little People Running Boston.
John vowed to finish the race as he trained through the grueling 2013/2014 New England Winter.
John and I first met at the Team Hoyt 5K several years ago. When I stopped running, I lost contact with many of my inspirational running friends and my friends in the running community. April 15, 2013 changed all of that. I got back on the roads and reconnected with my friends in social media and in real life.
John and I discovered many parallels in our journeys as we reconnected through social media. He travels the equivalent of two marathons for each marathon distance because he has to take almost twice as many steps. I have to use a lot more energy to run because of my history of paralytic polio and living with post polio syndrome. We each came to the sport late in life knowing that we were at a crossroads needing to choose life or risking worsening health and disability. We each share a strong faith knowing that we draw our strength from God. Conventional medical wisdom told us that we were taking a risk by running especially taking on endurance running but something deep inside of us knew that we had to take that risk. We were both there on 4/15/13 and shared in the terror of the day. I was a spectator at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. He was a runner and a husband and father whose family was in the VIP seats across from the first explosion.
It was exhilarating to follow John's training, tweets and facebook posts as Marathon Monday 2014 drew near.
We were surprised to have bumped into each other at the BAA 5K the Saturday of Marathon Weekend among thousands and thousands of runners and spectators. He was getting ready to head to the Expo and get his bib. Tom was getting ready to toe the starting line of the first leg of the BAA Distance Medley.
Marathon Monday arrived. I was tracking John. I got the text he hit the 10K mark and then nothing. I thought maybe there was a problem with the tracking system but I started getting texts for other runners I was tracking. As the day wore on I was getting worried. Maybe I missed him I thought but he knew where we were and I'm sure we would have seen him. We saw Juli run by and screamed to cheer her on to the finish.
When we got home, John posted that he had to withdraw from the race because a stomach virus gripped him at around mile 10 in Natick.
There was an outpouring of support for John. His 11 year old son Owen said, "Well dad. Some days you're the hammer and some days you are the nail. Today you were the nail." Yes 11 years old!
John posted on facebook that he would finish his race.
This morning at 6:30 am a dear friend of his drove him to Natick.
It was pouring rain but nothing was going to deter John today.
He posted pictures as he entered Wellesley and Newton and Facebook posts cheered him along the way.
After we saw he entered Newton, we prepared to meet John at the base of Heartbreak Hill at St. Ignatius. Another couple joined us as part of #supportcrew for John.
We chatted for a few minutes. John told us that whenever he feels leg pains, he gives a tug to Katie Lynch's sock and the teething ring and photo sent to him by a mom of a Little Person who was inspired by John's message of hope and possibility. He looked amazing, smiling through the rain and very pleased with his average pace of 13:30 minutes/mile. Before he risked cramping up, he went on his way to cross the finish line on Boylston Street.
Here's a John selfie with the Citgo Sign and Kenmore Square beckoning him to the finish
It doesn't matter that the 118th Boston Marathon ended 19 days ago. Today, John Young set out to finish what was abruptly interrupted on 4/15/13. Today John Young was the hammer. Today John Young finished the race.
Be sure to follow John's blog and his inspirational Tweets on Twitter.