Steve Gilbert now 77 was diagnosis with Parkinson’s in 2004 but it did not stop him to go after a dream to qualify to run the Boston Marathon

My racing career began with a 2010 half marathon, six years after my Parkinson’s diagnosis and after three years of training at Rock Steady Boxing. I was 64. I ran 2:45:00 for the half.  I was not at my best that day, but I finished.

The next year I ran my first marathon with my antithetical Bruce (third photo). Five years later I connected with Matt Ebersole at Personal Best Training.  With his help I had 18 podium finishes. I had gotten faster. 

The year I turned 70 I was still gaining pace and my age-group had thinned dramatically. You must be present to win. It all depends on who shows up. I won my AG at my next 19 races, then at 72 I stumbled through a half marathon.  A month later at a half I was back on the podium.

In November 2019, at age 74,  my half fell apart again. My neurologist said I had 30% nerve function loss in my left leg and he said I should not run more than five miles. At that point I didn’t feel like running farther, but I chafed at the restriction. 2020 was the year of ‘remote’ races but I sneaked in a 10K near the end.

In 2021, I stood on the top step in very thin fields. Many races were still being cancelled, but when my club put on a quarter/half marathon in December I ran the half impromptu and finished first in my age-group.  

The time made me think I could run Boston in 2023! I would need some slack to qualify and I knew Boston offered help to offset neurological impairment. The time adjustment offered to those with Parkinson’s made it possible. What a thrill it would be for someone with a movement disorder to be able to participate in this iconic marathon. 

I’ll take it! I started training again. The April 2022 Carmel Marathon was my target Boston qualifier race. It began with a cold rain, then sleet at start time and snow later. I still was optimistic and was able to finish with a BQ time and an AG course record. All of the records and wins are great for the ego, but are relative. I know there are those who could easily eclipse my time.

Now I am training for Boston, having been interrupted by a serious fall in December and Covid in February. I started my first marathon on injured knees. I am looking forward to good knees April 17th.

If the outcome were certain, there would be no point in the doing. I plan to run strong and finish healthy.  My wife and several family members and friends will be there to support me, along with many other well-wishers from afar. There will be previous Boston and New York winners competing in my age-group.  I won’t be on the podium, but crossing the finish line will be my greatest win.

God did not ask me to run, but he allowed me the body and spirit to do so. He created the miracle that is each of us and the finish line will be my testament to His Glory.

(Steve credits Rock Steady Boxing for awakening the potential to run, his brother Bruce ​​​for the inspiration, and Forté Sports Medicine for keeping his body working. He trains ​​​regularly with Personal Best Training and the Fishers Running Club.  Steve hopes to get under five hours with the help of his brother Bruce.)

posted Thursday March 30th
by Steve Gilbert