Emma Tullio – Special to Mustangs Ahead
(LAKEWOOD RANCH, FL) – The horn blared in the background, indicating that it was time for Corral C to move forward. My hands began sweating, and my body felt paralyzed with nerves. The harsh horn played again. The runners around me began advancing forward, developing a steady rhythm. After a few seconds, I was able to do the same, going left, right, left, right, and reminding myself I was running this half-marathon for my brother.
Running a half-marathon is not a regular activity for me. In fact, I honestly don’t even like to run. My twin brother Grayson, who is living with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, was the reason I ran. Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is a fatal genetic disorder that results in loss of strength. Grayson lost the ability to walk around age 15 and since then has been in a wheelchair. Watching him slowly be affected by his disease has made me want to act.
For years my mother has run races across the world for Grayson’s charity, “Another Day for Gray.” This charity receives donations and funding from various 5k races, such as the local Boo Run and Doggies for Duchenne. Although I am not an avid runner, I gladly participate in these races every year to help raise awareness for Grayson’s disease.
It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I really understood the severity of what Grayson deals with. Every dollar raised from these races was one more dollar towards research for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. I wanted to make a larger impact when it came to raising funds and awareness than the 5k races I did every year.
This is what led me to the idea of doing my first ever half-marathon. I knew it would not be just a physical challenge to finish such a distance; it was also a way for me to feel closer to Grayson. He struggles with moving around daily, whether it is having enough strength to pick up his spoon while eating or being frustrated with the tightness in his muscles while getting ready for bed. By going through such difficult races, I feel worn out, tired, and exhausted. This only allows me to understand a small portion of what he goes through, but it is still more than I understood before.
I set my goal in motion: training five days a week, hoping to have enough endurance for the race. Most days, I felt frustrated with my inability to run the miles, coming home beaten down. It made me want to give up. The negative thoughts that would pop up in my head told me that this wouldn’t really matter to Grayson. Deep down I knew that was not true.
Every time I trained, I was doing it for this half marathon and for Grayson. In order to deal with those feelings, I reminded myself of what running this race would do for him. The impact on raising funds and awareness would be significant, so I pushed myself each training run, until finally the day came.
I turned the corner: I knew I could handle no more of this tiring run. My legs were weak, my toes torn up with blisters, and my face covered in sweat. Then, a voice crept into my head, telling me that I could put in those last miles. That voice was Grayson.
I gathered as much strength as I could, and moments later, I had a medal around my neck. When I finally crossed that line, I felt so thankful. Not only to have run 13.1 miles, a distance I never thought possible, but also for having Grayson in my life. He is a best friend to me, whether it is watching The Bachelor or playing around with the dogs. Regardless of what he deals with in his life, Grayson has always been by my side. Without him, I could never have done this half-marathon.