Life-Changing Experience Brings Runner Back to the Akron Marathon

April 27, 2017 by Alissa Hazlett

Life-changing experience brings runner back to Akron Marathon

Barbara Ford, pictured here with her rescue dog Outlaw Pete, is running the Akron Marathon again after an inspiring 2016 race.

Last September, Barbara Ford was running in the half marathon at the Akron Children’s Hospital Akron Marathon, Half Marathon & Team Relay presented by FirstEnergy for the first time as a warm-up for the New York City Marathon.

When she hit mile 11.4, near the hospital’s Hero Zone along the race route, she thought she was done. The sore knee and strained hamstring she’d started the race with were really hurting her, and she wasn’t sure she’d make it up the hill in front of her. Akron Children’s hero patient and cancer survivor, James Wilson was cheering on the runners and noticed Barbara struggling; he immediately joined her on the race course.

But James didn’t just help Barbara conquer the hill at mile 11.4. He stayed with her for the remaining 1.7 miles of the course, offering words of encouragement until she reached the finish line.

“Everything hurts right now, but not my heart,” Barbara commented after the 2016 race. “My heart is filled with such joy that this wonderful young man had the fortitude and strength to battle Ewing’s sarcoma and was there on the hill today to help this old gal.”

After the Akron half marathon, Barbara took a few weeks off because of her injury, but she was still determined to run in the New York City Marathon in November.

“What James may not know is he didn’t just help me finish the Akron race, he helped me finish the NYC marathon as well,” Barbara said.  “I had a quote from James that said “we can’t quit no matter what” written on a piece of paper and at mile 22, I pulled out the paper and read it over and over. It motivated me to get to the 26.2 mark in Central Park.”

James inspired Barbara to finish her half marathon race at the Akron Marathon, to complete the New York City Marathon and has now inspired her to sign up as a Children’s Champion this year to raise money while she trains for September’s FirstEnergy Akron Marathon, Half Marathon & Team Relay.

“Although I am hoping to have a better running experience at the 2017 race, I just can’t imagine that I could possibly have a more heartfelt, life- changing experience than what I had in 2016,” Barbara said. “I truly believe what James did that day made me a better person, and I want to give back.”

Barbara views her fundraising as a way to honor the kindness James showed her at last year’s race, but also views it as a way to thank Akron Children’s for the care they provide to children like James.

“In a perfect world, there would be no need for a children’s hospital or for a race to benefit young patients,” Barbara said. “But once you read the stories of the Akron Children’s heroes, you quickly realize that it is not a perfect world, that in the real world, unfortunately, young children are facing illnesses.”

Barbara has completed 4 full marathons and 30 half marathons and while that number is still rising, her experience at the Akron Marathon will always hold a special place in her heart.

Click here to join Barbara as a Children’s Champion and make a difference for Akron Children’s patients like James.

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