Aaron’s marathon

About a year and a half ago, I was chatting with Aaron (by writing on his Ipad) and challenged him to do something epic physically.  He had started really exploring that side of him and had gained some skills and confidence with mountain biking, skiing and mountain-climbing  (we have summitted several “fourteeners” which are 14,000 ft mountains in Colorado).  So, I knew he had the physical skills and the desire to push himself.  I asked him if he took on my challenge, what would he want to do.  He agreed that he wanted to do something because he does love stretching his limits and told me that he wanted to run a marathon.

Previously, we had tried various forms of competitive running because he loves to run around in our backyard and can spend hours jumping on the trampoline.  We started him on the track but that didn’t really stick.  We tried going to some of the summer practices with his high school cross country team.  He could only last for 10 minutes before he would stop running and would get dropped by the other boys.  After several weeks, he said he didn’t like it anymore and we stopped going.  So, when he said that he wanted to run a marathon, I was supportive but skeptical that we’d get through it.

Sure enough, on our first training run, he made it about 5 minutes before he just started walking and wouldn’t go any further.  I knew that physically he had the ability, but running is as much mental as it is physical and I just didn’t know if he could handle that side of it (to push through when your body is telling you to stop.)  But, this time he didn’t want to quit and we kept at it.  It still wasn’t going well for several weeks and running a marathon seemed like a distant goal.  So, we decided to start with a half-marathon and then go from there.  I also figured out that if I had him hold onto a small rope that I was also holding onto, he could make it for a longer period of time before stopping.  That is how we trained–holding a rope between us and going for short sections at a time with walk breaks in between.  Last year, we made it through our half-marathon, with the rope, and he did great, finishing the race in 2 hours.

This year, it was time to up our game.  Aaron also wanted to drop the rope.  I had to find another substitute that would keep him pacing.   Aaron always does much better if he knows what is coming and so I decided to try having him wear his own running watch.  I used the timer function and set the total planned time for our run that day.   Then, as we ran, we would break it down into smaller sections.  He would ask me what time, and I would say that we would run until the watch said “1:10” and then we would walk for a little bit.  The next mini-goal was “1:00”, etc.  This worked well for him and we slowly increased our mileage.  He improved his confidence and his endurance and he told me that he was going to finish that marathon no matter what.  When race day came around, I knew that he was ready.  Yet, he exceeded my expectations on how he handled the race.  We did shorter walk breaks and a faster pace than we did during our training runs and he handled it great.  The last 6 miles was hard but it’s hard for everybody.  It was a small marathon and there weren’t many runners.  As we jumped out at the beginning, we were in the top group of four.  The other two built a pretty good lead on us by the half-way mark.  But we picked them both off in the last 7 miles.  Aaron kept it up and he won the race!

It was such an awesome experience to see him accomplish his goal and to have such success in the process.  Definitely one of the highlights of my life!  Now that he has had a taste of it, he is now highly motivated to keep pushing himself to new heights.  I’m so proud of him because I know how hard it was to get to this point.  Go Aaron!  You’re amazing!  I’m so glad that I get to be your dad and your running partner.



About author

Bryan Jepson

"Autism dad"--father of two children with autism, Aaron and Austin. Author Physician  Advocate for intensive autism treatment but also for helping our kids find their "voice"--their contribution--regardless of the severity of their disability.    Read my blog, including posts from my amazing kids, Aaron and Austin. Here is my latest book, a novel about a family's challenges in raising their non-verbal autistic son as they navigate through the world of diagnosis, treatment and helping him to find his place in the world.  Learn more here.

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