Matt Wilbur, pictured here, was scheduled to run the 2012 NYC Marathon for Team Fox for the 4th year in a row. The once 3-hour marathoner would now need more than 7 hours to complete the 26.2 miles, which was scheduled to be his last full marathon. There was no way he would let this, or Parkinson’s, stop him from reaching the finish line.
After hearing about the cancellation of the NYC Marathon, his friends, running group and entire community rallied together around him. They were touched by the dedication he put into his fundraising and training, and his genuine optimism – even when he was the last to finish a training run. Tony Alonso and Kim Raber, two members of his Galloway running group in Cincinnati, helped to organize a local 26.2 mile race through the city, complete with everything a race should have. There were start/finish lines, the national anthem, aid stations, cheering spectators, local media coverage, race shirts, finisher’s medals and a carb-loading pasta dinner the night before. The race was named after Matt’s mantra to stay “one step ahead” of Parkinson’s disease.
On December 1, the “One Step Ahead” Marathon got underway when the gun went off at 7 AM. I was honored to be at this race for Matt, along with 3-time Team Fox marathon runner Joyce Chu, who also has Parkinson’s, and Team Fox Mentor Mike Dubin. And we weren’t alone. There were a handful of runners who were with Matt every step of the way, and many others who jumped in for a few miles. At the last aid station around mile 23 I overheard Matt, trying to hold back tears in his eyes, say “I don’t want this to end.”
Matt crossed the finish line in 8 hours, 33 minutes and 56 seconds. He was greeted by his wife, daughters and grandchildren who had been out cheering all day, as well as numerous other community members. There were cheers and there were tears along with lots of hugs and photo ops. Then, the man who didn’t understand why everyone was doing this for “just one guy” had a moment to reflect and take it all in.
Matt might not be running 26.2 miles at one time anymore, but his positive attitude, kind heart and strong spirit will always keep him “one step ahead.” Congratulations Matt!