In 2000 I (Ray Phillips) had received a time-waivered entry for the Boston Marathon from Children’s Hospital Boston, and was assigned a Patient Partner, Andy Martin, a 4 year old boy who was born with Spina Bifida and paralyzed from the waist down. After meeting with Andy and his family at the Children’s Hospital Marathon Team Kickoff reception, I left the reception feeling quite inspired by Andy’s positive spirit, and I decided that since he would be carrying me during the race via his inspiration, it would only be appropriate to reciprocate and carry him part of the way so we could cross the finish line together. So we planned on meeting at the final turn in the marathon, at the corner of Hereford and Boylston Streets, 600 yards from the finish line.
So when I arrived at the top of Boylston Streeton the day of the race, Andy was placed on my back in a backpack. The last 600 yards down Boylston Street to the cheers of the crowd and making it across the finish line together was an incredibly joyous and emotional experience. This was certainly the highlight of my marathon. But for Andy, there was a major event that he had witnessed on the day of the race, more than two hours prior to my arrival at the top of Boylston Street, that was even more dramatic. This event would have a permanent impact on Andy’s perspective on life, in a world where anything is possible.
The event was that on the race day of the 2000 Boston Marathon, while 4 year old Andy Martin was patiently waiting in his wheelchair for me to appear, Andy saw the first of the marathon entrants go flying by. But Andy was astounded by what he saw, and he couldn’t believe his eyes! These were not runners! These were the wheelchair entrants!!! Andy was so excited by this sight that he immediately announced to his parents that he too, would become a wheelchair entrant in the Boston Marathon. Andy insisted that he wanted to do it the following year, which may have been a little too ambitious for a five year old boy. I informed Andy that he may have to wait a little longer, because the minimum age restriction for the Boston Marathon is 18 years old. He thought about this for a short while and then replied, “That’s okay. It’ll give me some time to train for it.” We then pledged to each other that we would cross the finish line at every Boston Marathon together until it is his turn, as a wheelchair entrant, when he would be 18 years, in 2014.
So for the past 14 Boston Marathons, we’ve kept our promise to each other by completing the final 600 yards and crossing the finish line together, and with every additional Boston Marathon finish, Andy’s commitment to fulfilling his goal has become stronger and stronger. It has been a long journey, and Andy has overcome a number of obstacles and setbacks along the way, but he has shown steadfast determination in pursuit of achieving his lifelong goal. In the summer of 2013, Andy trained very hard, and in the fall later in the year he successfully completed two marathons within a four week period. Shortly thereafter, the Boston Athletic Association approved Andy Martin as a wheelchair entrant in the 2014 Boston Marathon. So today, Andy Martin is now on the verge of making what was once long ago just an implausible dream of a young child, a reality.
I really feel very fortunate to be a participant in the “Team Andy Project” experience. Andy is driving this bus, and I’m just happy to be along for the ride. When Andy completes the Boston Marathon in April 2014, it will not just be the completion of a 15 year journey that started for him as a four year old in 2000. I expect that the achievement of his lifelong marathon goal will act as a springboard in providing Andy with the self confidence to aim high in pursuing and achieving future goals along his path.
The above story is just a very brief overview of the “Team Andy Project”. If you have interest in learning more about additional details of Andy’s determination and spirit on our journey between 2000 and 2014, please follow our path and learn about the adventures that we’ve experienced along the way. The “Team Andy Project” originally started out as a blog but wound up evolving into an e-book. The “Prologue” provides some info on the origin of the “Team Andy Project”, and the stories in the subsequent chapters attempt to entertain the reader. We’ve also thrown in a number of our videos to attempt to keep the reader engaged. If you decide to hop aboard the bus and read further, I hope that you enjoy the ride.