Austin’s 5K

Through my work as a physical therapist, I have had the privilege of meeting a young man named Austin. Austin is 17 years old and lives in Batavia. He has been a Cincinnati Children’s patient for many years. Images of his brain suggest that he had a stroke when he was in utero. He has hemiparetic cerebral palsy. Austin plays computer games and watches television. He is a teenager and like lots of them, he spends an awful lot of time sitting still.

Although the damage to Austin’s brain will not get worse, his mobility and function can continue to deteriorate. Unwelcome changes to bone, muscle, and the cardiorespiratory system can occur over time when patients with disability aren’t proactive. One of Austin’s best defenses is also a hot topic in public health today. Research suggests that decreasing the amount of time we spend being sedentary, and increasing the amount of time we spend engaged in physical activity is critical for everyone, but especially for children with CP!

At a clinic visit in April, Austin felt frustrated. Physical fitness testing at school meant running a mile, and it didn’t go well. He seemed to be compelled to do something about it. So Austin set an admirable goal; he announced that he would like to run, in its entirety, a 5K race.  He scoured the internet for his just right challenge, signed up for the Panerathon, in Mason, Ohio (probably largely because the race includes a giveaway of free Sketchers) and he named the team that would support him the CP Warriors.

He worked tirelessly over the summer. He spent Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays with outpatient physical therapists at Cincinnati Children’s. He strengthened legs. He grew better abdominal muscles than most of the healthcare professionals who treat him. He practiced coordinated activities like skipping and jumping. He walked on a treadmill. He did silly things, like moving rings from one cone to the next with his foot or kneeling on top of big therapy balls without holding on. And he ran. He ran around the 3430 Burnet Medical Offices Building and met the people who live in the neighborhood. He ran up and down the big hill that the hospital lives on and doctors and nurses clapped for him. He ran in the August heat and sometimes in unexpected rain. Every weekend, he ran around the trail at Lunken Airfield, with a team of volunteers from the hospital and CP Clinic and people who believe in him. He ran with a dog, and sometimes a donated ipod shuffle and Rodney Atkins. He ran while he talked about zombies and fried pickles and how to beat Halo. He never ran without smiling. His Mom filled a scrapbook with photos because while he ran, she and her husband filled up with pride.

Two things happened during this journey.

One is that Austin grew. He threw up during a mile run in physical education class in April. On Sunday, September 21st, he will finish the 5K faster than many individuals without physical disability.

The other is that the people around him grew. We thank him for his inability to perceive hurdles. We thank him for reminding us that few things are out of the realm of possibility. And we thank him for reminding us to carry ourselves forward (unless we are practicing walking backwards).

Please share his story.

Please fill Mason, Ohio with astounding applause at his finish line.

And for heaven’s sake, can someone please make sure he gets a free pair of size 9 shoes?!  (Update: We think this is taken care of! He’ll be thrilled!)



Jenny Angeli, DPT, PhD

About the Author: Jenny Angeli, DPT, PhD

Jenny is a physical therapist and health services researcher at Cincinnati Children’s. She works primarily with children who have cerebral palsy.

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  1. Jilda Vargus-Adams MD MSc September 17, 15:45
    Thanks, Austin, for showing all of us what can come of belief and hard work. I am so excited for you! You are an inspiration and I am very proud to know you and to follow you in the CCHMC Cerebral Palsy clinic. Have a great race on Sunday! Dr. Jilda
  2. Sherry September 18, 07:45
    Austin - You are an inspiration and a hero. You have already learned the hardest lesson of all in life – that it takes perseverance, determination, and initiative to achieve your goals - you have already won the greatest prize! S.
  3. Carol Mayhugh September 18, 08:32
    Way to go Austin. I enjoyed reading your story and hopefully you will inspire many young people through your perseverance and hard work. I used to ride my bike around lunken airport - can't imagine running the course!! It takes a lot of inner strength to reach a goal - congratulations on reaching yours and good luck with your race this weekend and perhaps more 5K runs in the future!! Love your smile!!!
  4. Sean Jameson September 18, 13:01
    I had a great time training with you on your weekend runs and getting to know you and your family. You ROCK! See Sunday at the run! P.S.- don't forget there is a Turkey day race in November :)!
  5. Donna Czarnecki September 18, 13:48
    YAAAAAAAAAY, Austin! Thank you for making my heart smile today.
  6. Andrea Booth September 18, 14:32
    Austin, It was a pleasure to meet you and your mom a couple of Friday's ago when you put a pie in Dr. Jilda's face to raise awareness for CP. You have inspired me to start running again! Have a great race! Best, Andrea
  7. Kelsa Van Franl September 18, 21:29
    I remember a specific conversation I had with your mom a while back.... She was very concerned because you had trouble walking the mall... My have you grown! Determination and an unmeasurable spirit will go a long way! Keep up the hard work! I am very proud of you! Kick some butt this weekend!!!
  8. Lauren September 19, 09:33
    What an inspirational story! Way to go Austin! Never give up!
  9. Susan Berg September 25, 10:40
    Austin, Jenn and the entire CP Program at CCHMC are all winners in my book! Best wishes to all.
  10. Jilda Vargus-Adams MD MSc September 26, 08:46
    Austin! You did it! People all over the world knew about your race on Sunday and were celebrating with you. You had such heart and spirit... not to mention that incredible sprint at the finish! You left Jenny and me in the dust! Your race is a testament to faith and hardwork and an inspiration to countless others with CP and without. My hat goes off to you. You are a rock star of the CCHMC Cerebral Palsy program! Hugs, Dr. Jilda