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Journey to the Finish Line By Matt Wilbur

I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 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, “You probably don’t remember me, but I’m Mike Dubin from Ann Arbor, Michigan. I met you and your daughter after last year’s marathon. My father has Parkinson’s and I was inspired by your relationship and commitment to run together. I was Kristen’s Team Fox mentor over the summer. Do you need someone to run with today?”

Mike and I rode that bus to Staten Island, relaxed in the runners’ village during the pre-race festival and got into the very last corral. Mike spent the next 7½ 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, Mike’s dad passed away after his 15-year battle with Parkinson’s. I told Mike I would understand if he couldn’t run. But after discussing it with his family, he decided to honor his father by racing. The three of us ran together, finishing in 7½ hours.

My life is blessed beyond measure and I am proud to pay it forward by running to raise funds and awareness for Parkinson’s research. Team Fox has made my journey truly rewarding — 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.

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