During Boston, His Mile Time Kept Slipping. The Reason Will Melt Your Heart

Despite being non-verbal autistic, John Almeda was running the Boston Marathon….but all didn’t go as planned.

By kncitom on April 16, 2019
Photo courtesy Vanessa Bieker

John Almeda, the 24 year old non-verbal autistic man from Sacramento who ran the Boston Marathon this week managed to do it in under four hours–his official time was 3:52:03. But John was capable of running it faster: at the California International Marathon this past December, he breezed through the finish line with a time of 3:17.

As we watched online updates of his mile times during the race on Monday, we noticed they were slipping during the second half of the run, which, even though it was a little surprising, was still totally understandable: he had set blazing pace–at the halfway point his time was 1:39, which works out to around a 7:30 mile. Some slippage would almost be expected because even if you’re in great shape, you can still bonk a little on race day. 

Plus, his mom Vanessa had to be hospitalized the day before the race, at Massachusetts General Hospital, because of a pretty serious kidney infection. Potentially, that was a major setback: Vanessa has always been there for John on his runs, whether a big race or during training runs, when he would regularly follow her (she’d be on a bike) to Starbucks for a Caramel Frappucino after reaching his distance goal. From accounts of others who traveled with them, John spent most of the night before the race awake, worrying about her. Nobody was sure until the race began if John was even going to be willing to run. 

But he did, so when his mile times began edging over 8 minutes per (which is still a GREAT pace), we didn’t think much about it. 

However, we’ve since learned there was another reason his time was slipping and it had zero to do with running out of gas.

In a message to us from his mom yesterday, Vanessa said,

 “So during the race, after the 13 mile mark someone who looks like me in the crowd was yelling and (John) thought it was me. So the whole second half of the race he would run 900 feet and turn around and want to run back. His coach said he had the hardest time getting him to focus because he kept calling my name LOL! All he wanted to do was turn around and find that woman who was yelling because he thought it was me.”

John thought he had seen his mom and he kept trying to circle back to be with her.

For the last 13 miles of the race!

If you’ve followed their story at all, you’ll know John and his mom have an unbreakable bond…even on race day, even during the biggest run of his life. She’s always been there for him, and he wanted to be there for her.

And eventually, he was. He just had to cross the finish line first.

Photo courtesy Vanessa Bieker

Vanessa, by the way, is improving and will be released from the hospital on Friday. Meanwhile, John has flown back to Sacramento to rest and recover and, we’re sure, is eagerly waiting for his mom, so he can be with her again.

And together they can go get his Caramel Frappucino.



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