Breathin' Stephen, the Hardluck Asthmatic, completes Boston Marathon
He did it On April 20 Breathin’ Stephen, our Hardluck asthmatic who did the unimaginable and qualified for the Boston Marathon, trekked the entire 26-mile course in 7.5 hours, and crossed the finish line.
Stephen Gaudet, who’s daily FEV1 measures about 37% of normal, is an amazing asthmatic who struggles with dyspnea on a daily basis, and yet he refuses to use that as an excuse to quit. He is an inspiration to all of us asthmatics that we can live normal lives with this disease, and even do the unimaginable.
Amazingly, Stephen was not the lone chronic lunger racing that day, as a good friend of his, Mike McBride, walked right alongside him for most of the race. What makes Mike’s story so impressive is that he is an oxygen dependent emphysema patient who has to lug a cart of oxygen tanks behind him (click here to read about Mike and check out a picture of him with his tanks).
Stephen described on his blog, Breathin Stephen, a morning that started out on a chilly 33 degree and foggy day with a forcast of light rain in Hopkinton, Massachusettes. Yet as the morning drew closer to the 9:00 start time, the weather warmed to a pleasant 47.
In the moments before the start he and Mike were inundated by the media from all sides. He wrote, “There were tons of Satellite TV trucks and News Vans parked out front. We were interviewed by several News organization… Everyone was waving microphones and cameras in our faces trying to find out what our story was.”
At five minutes to nine he, Mike and about 18 other mobility impaired set to start the race ahead of the other marathoners. And everything seemed to go really well until about mile 21 when Stephen’s leg muscles started to cramp up.
Yet he did not stop walking.
By mile 23 he encountered another familiar obstacle:
“The city of Boston was finally in site and you could actually see the finish area. It was at this point I knew I would finish the race within the time limit. The problem now was that weather had gone from a pleasant 53 degrees to about 40 degrees in a matter of moments. In addition, the wind was picking up ,making it feel even colder. For the last 3 miles, I thought I was going to freeze to death. To make things worse, the constant headwind was aggravating my lungs, making me wheeze. By mile 25 , I was definitely feeling like I had done a marathon.”
Yet he did not stop walking.
“As we entered the final 1/4 mile stretch to the finish line,” he continued, "it was starting to get dark outside and I could tell that we were probably going to be the last 2 people to finish the race. But, believe it or not, even at this late hour, there were huge crowds of people lining the streets that waited to see us finish.
"Then in the last 100 yards or so, my emotions hit me like a tons of bricks. It finally dawned on me of what I had just accomplished. In the span of just 3 years, I had gone from an old out-of -shape COPDer who could barely walk a city block, and who was basically written off by the medical establishment, to achieving what many people said was silly, crazy and impossible. I was about to finish the Boston marathon!
“As I set foot on the finish mat, I couldn’t control it any longer… and the tears just gushed out. (I hope no one saw.) I did it ! Me…I did it !”
Later, he said, "I knew this would be an important race for me, but I had no idea just how big a deal this would turn out to be. The media response to my ( our ) participation in this race, has been overwhelming to say say the least
On his blog he summed the experience up best: “I’m grateful for being given an opportunity to take part in this race. It was truly a dream come true and an experience I will never forget. I hope that other people with lung disease will see by my example, that anything is possible if you try hard enough.”
I added the bold for emphasis. After writing this post, I’m going to have a hard time accepting from any asthmatic the words “I can’t.” If Breathin’ Stephen, the Hardluck asthmatic, can trek 26 miles in 7.5 hours despite the obstacles he faces, any asthmatic can do it.
John Bottrell is a registered Respiratory Therapist. He wrote for HealthCentral as a health professional for Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).