Pictured: Matt’s daughter Kristen, Matt and Team Fox Mentor & Friend Mike Dubin during the 2011 NYC Marathon
This guest blog post comes from Tony Alonso, friend of Team Fox member Matt Wilbur. Tony met Matt through their local Cincinnati running club and like all of us here at MJFF, Tony has been touched by Matt’s determination and optimism as a Parkinson’s patient, and is helping to see Matt through his marathon finale.
Running is an experience of the body and mind, and this past summer, I was shown what the mind can compel the body to do. I am a member of the Cincinnati Galloway Run-Walk Marathon training group, as is Matt Wilbur, a courageous advocate for the mission of Team Fox. I spent time training with Matt this past summer. He humbly and quietly told me about his struggles with Parkinson's disease, how he turned his love of distance running into a testament for the work of The Michael J. Fox Foundation, and that the 2012 NYC Marathon was to be his last one, ending a multi-year career. Years ago, his fastest marathon time was just under three hours, but these days, it takes him over seven to cover the 26.2 mile distance. In his eyes and his heart, I see his running spirit, no matter the physical limitations of his condition.
Matt persevered through his training this past summer―despite the roadblocks Parkinson’s presents―in order to raise money for Team Fox and meet his fundraising goal. He has been a true inspiration, not only to me but to other members of our training group as well.
Matt was affected by the cancellation of the NYC Marathon following Hurricane Sandy. Unlike others, he is not one of those runners who can say "There will be other marathons." I saw the hours of dedication to both his training and fundraising, so I expected this would be difficult news for him. I know he understands why the run wasn't held, but when a runner makes the training investment and then has the rug yanked out, it is heartbreaking.
I was compelled to do something to honor Matt's courage and sacrifice for Team Fox, so I enlisted the help of our running group to organize a local marathon for him. It is not a formal race, but the group members are doing everything in our power to bring him an experience so that he can finish what he started: run a marathon to bring awareness to Parkinson's disease and raise funds for PD research.
The 26.2 mile course has been designed to make reference to several NYC landmarks using the Cincinnati, OH, area including:
- Coney Island (Staten Island)
- Eden Park/Washington Park/Central Parkway (Central Park)
- Roebling Bridge (Brooklyn Bridge)
- Downtown Cincinnati (Manhattan)
I asked Matt to name the marathon, and he suggested the "One Step Ahead of Parkinson's Disease" Marathon. This was inspired by the name of a book he recently published that is currently on sale at Amazon.com. One of the runners has designed a graphic that will be used on race shirts for our run. All of us here in the Greater Cincinnati area who are going to be running, cheering, and supporting him all want to "Keep Matt One Step Ahead of Parkinson's Disease!"