Wheelchair team shines in Georgia Marathon

Taking turns pushing Jake Vinson were, from left: Tara Black, Nancy Lochman, Mary Delp and his mom, Amy Vinson.
Taking turns pushing Jake Vinson were, from left: Tara Black, Nancy Lochman, Mary Delp and his mom, Amy Vinson.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Amy Vinson’s finishing time at Sunday’s Georgia Marathon and Half-Marathon was not quite as fast as hoped. Her son Jake’s smile, though, was ample consolation.

“We had an amazing time today,” Amy Vinson said following her half-marathon. “It was fantastic.”

Amy took turns with three friends pushing nine-year-old Jake, who is non-verbal and non-ambulatory due to a drowning accident that caused profound brain damage when he was a toddler. She took up running to cope but also to provide her son a way to participate in sports. Sunday’s half-marathon was the seventh or eighth race they’ve competed in together and the longest, she said.

“I’m telling you, the first 10 miles, he was grinning ear to ear, and he was so happy and he was so alert,” said Vinson, of Roswell. The cold over the final 3.1 miles sapped some of his excitement, but “he was so engaged and so for me to be able to see that as his mom, it was worth every single ounce of blood, sweat and tears.”

They were one of 16 teams representing the Kyle Pease Foundation, an Atlanta-based non-profit that assists individuals like the Vinsons with everything from equipment to race fees. The namesake is a 29-year-old Atlantan who is a Piedmont Hospital and Publix employee and is quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. His 31-year-old brother Brent, a triathlon coach, pushed him through the 13.1-mile race course Sunday on a specially-adapted wheelchair and has previously swam, ridden and run with him on an Ironman-length marathon. Sunday, they finished in one hour, 30 minutes and 16 seconds, 28th out of almost 500 in Brent’s male 30-34 age group.

“It’s incredible,” Kyle said following the race, as runners congregated in Centennial Olympic Park. “For me being a big-time sports fan, diehard Falcons fan and a Braves fan, for us to realize a dream, and me becoming an athlete is really special for me and something that I’ll be forever grateful for.”

Sunday’s race was the biggest event yet for the foundation, begun in 2011 after Brent completed an Ironman triathlon in Louisville, Ky., and Kyle asked if they could do one together. Several of the team members pushing wheelchairs Sunday were volunteers who had no previous ties to those they pushed.

“We’d like to keep doing Ironmans and we’d love to bring more people with us, but what we really want to do is just bring awareness and open this up,” Brent said. “There’s no reason that anybody living with any type of disability should be excluded from whatever sporting activity there is out there.”

The men’s winner of the eighth Georgia Marathon was 33-year-old Kenyan Abraham Kogo, who finished in 2:33:21. It was the slowest winning time in the race’s history. Kogo, who ran six miles to school four times a day growing up (returning home for lunch), is based out of Hebron, Ky., to compete in U.S. road races.

The women’s winner was Polish national Justyna Mudy, 29, who lives and trains in Rome. Mudy broke away from her close friend and sometime training partner Jill Horst, winner of the past two Georgia Marathons, to win in 2:56:24.

Nathan Haskins, a former Kennesaw State runner from Atlanta, won the men’s half-marathon in 1:11:31 a day after competing in a five-kilometer race. The women’s winner was Kenyan Caroline Kiptoo, who is also training out of Hebron, with a time of 1:18:18.

According to race results, there were about 9,400 finishers in the marathon and half marathon, more than 2,500 shy of the total of registered entrants, perhaps due to the threat of rain. Except for a brief interlude of stiff winds, however, the overcast skies, a slight drizzle and temperatures in the 50’s made for ideal conditions for the marathon. As usual, it began in front of the CNN Center and then wound through the Sweet Auburn District, Inman Park, Decatur, Druid Hills, Virginia-Highland and Midtown. No serious medical issues were reported.

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