Finding inspiration at the NYC Marathon

In the summer of 2012, Saskatoon runner Jason Warick was training in anticipation of toeing the start line with some of the best runners in the world at that fall’s New York City Marathon. But the plan — and Warick’s elite running career — came crashing down when he was rear-ended by a distracted driver and suffered a hip injury.

Seven years after he had initially hoped to run the famed New York City Marathon, Warick travelled to the Big Apple this month with friend, teammate and Brainsport owner Brian Michasiw. While Michasiw ran the course, Warick walked, taking in the spectacle of the world’s largest marathon.

Jason Warick and Brian Michasiw at the New York Marathon.

Around kilometre 35, Warick came up on a burly man pushing a middle-aged man in a modified hand cycle.

Warick learned that New Zealand runner Ben Parore had been running a great race when he came upon James Akaka from Hawaii. Akaka, who’d had a stroke a few years ago, can’t speak or use three of his limbs and was struggling to move his one-armed hand-cycle. Though Parore had just met Akaka, he had offered to help.

Warick joined their team, walking in front to clear a path for the two athletes over the final seven kilometres. When they finally crossed the finish line, all three cried from the emotion of the day.

When Warick returned home, he wrote about his experience for CBC Saskatoon, where he works.

He also spoke with the Brainsport Times about the day and why he was inspired to share it.

Brainsport Times: Why was it so important for you to take part in the New York Marathon even though you weren’t intending to race it?

Jason Warick: The main thing was it was the New York Marathon and it’s the biggest, craziest loudest marathon in the world. It was special to go back there because I had planned to go there and that was kind of taken away from me seven years ago and so to be able to get back there finally — not race it, not care about placing or personal bests or whatever but just to go and experience it — was really important to me. And I would never have gone without Brian suggesting it and then organizing the whole thing. We’ve raced or trained together all over — Kenya, Rotterdam, Chicago — so he knew what New York would mean to me.

BT: Why was it important to you to share the experience you’d had with Ben and James?

JW: I was just so amazed and moved by both men. Those guys are both heroic in my mind. Ben, obviously for stopping and giving up his own race to help his fellow athlete. That is an amazing thing that he did. Unlike me, Ben was really trying to go for a personal best and had spent thousands of dollars to get there and he was having a really good one. So he actually gave up a really golden opportunity to achieve a personal running goal. For me, when I came upon them, it was just a no brainer. I was there to celebrate being healthy and if those guys wanted me to help out in a little way, then I was really happy to do that. But I was also just in awe of James, this guy with a one-arm hand cycle, just going for it and giving it everything when most able-bodied people would shudder to even think of doing 42 kilometers.

BT: What sort of reaction have you had to the article you wrote?

JW: It’s been pretty overwhelming, actually. A lot of people said I made them cry. That maybe wasn’t the intention, but it’s nice to know that they felt some of the emotion that I felt when I when I saw those guys and was able to join their team.

BT: What do you hope people can take away from your experience?

JW: Everyone reading this from the Brainsport community probably knows how important it is to pursue your own goals and to train and how meaningful it is to get to a race that you’ve prepared for for months or even years like New York. I would go to races for years just focused on myself. And that would be the singular goal would be to see what I could do. And to have an experience like this just changed the way I look at races, changed the way I look at my running and changed the way I looked at my other competitors and it was really powerful. So I hope everyone gets a chance to have an experience like that or something that makes you feel that way that can broaden your running experience beyond just yourself.

Since his car accident in 2012, Jason Warick has since returned to running and is a common sight in the lead packs at local road races, including the Saskatchewan Marathon. He also coaches a group of runners in the city.

— Andrea Hill (Editor, Brainsport Times)