I was diagnosed with Parkinsonís disease in fall 2002. I decided to consider this merely an inconvenience. I had been a pretty serious recreational runner, running 25 marathons with a personal record of 2:59:40. In spring 2009, I joined Team Fox and made a commitment to run my first marathon in years with my 32-year-old daughter Kristen, a pretty good marathoner herself. That November, in just over 7 hours, we crossed the finish line of the ING NYC Marathon together.
In 2010, Kristen and I signed up to run together again, but a month before the marathon she had to drop out; she and her family had to go to Colombia, South America to adopt two boys. On race day morning, I sat on the Team Fox bus wondering how I would get through the 26.2 miles by myself.
Five minutes before the bus was to leave, a young man walked back to my seat. Shaking my hand, he said, ďYou probably donít remember me, but Iím Mike Dubin from Ann Arbor, Michigan. I met you and your daughter after last yearís marathon. My father has Parkinsonís and I was inspired by your relationship and commitment to run together. I was Kristenís Team Fox mentor over the summer. Do you need someone to run with today?Ē
Mike and I rode that bus to Staten Island, relaxed in the runnersí village during the pre-race festival and got into the very last corral. Mike spent the next 7Ĺ hours running 26.2 miles with me through the streets of New York City. We walked out of Central Park together, missing the post-race gathering because it took us so long, and left as good friends.
Two months later I was asked to share my story in church. Right before the service I looked nervously over the congregation. To my surprise, Mike was sitting in the third pew. He had set out at 4 a.m. to drive to Cincinnati and support me once again. When I finished my story and introduced Mike, he received a standing ovation.
We made plans to run the 2011 ING NYC marathon together. Kristen would join us as well. But about a month before the marathon, Mikeís dad passed away after his 15-year battle with Parkinsonís. I told Mike I would understand if he couldnít run. But after discussing it with his family, he decided to honor his father by racing. The three of us ran together, finishing in 7Ĺ hours.
My life is blessed beyond measure and I am proud to pay it forward by running to raise funds and awareness for Parkinsonís research. Team Fox has made my journey truly rewarding ó and I humbly hope that the ripple effect has inspired others, too, to make a difference.
Matt Wilbur and Mike Dubin have raised over $120,000 in three years running the ING NYC marathon.