RUN JONATHAN, RUN!
My name is Verlaine Brunot and I would like to share with you all a story about the power of perseverance, dedication and willpower. This is a story about my youngest brother Jonathan. Jonathan is a handsome, charming and energetic twenty five year old who has severe autism.
Jonathan Brunot was born on March 14, 1989; a healthy child with an expressive personality. He had lots of eye contact, and his vocabulary built steadily as he began to learn to speak. However, when he was about 2 ½ years of age, he began to regress dramatically. His eye contact became non-existent and the few words and even phrases he had mastered in the previous months slipped away into completely non-verbal interaction. Jonathan would later be diagnosed as severely autistic, a prognosis that meant he could never develop “typical” brain function for his age.
Just. Like. That.
Autism is a lifelong, pervasive neurological disorder. However, no matter how difficult and extreme the circumstances; an autistic person is only limited by the limits we put upon them.
Case in point, our amazing mother Olga. She always taught us that Jonathan wasn't merely an “autistic” individual, but rather we were an “autistic” family. It was incumbent upon us as a family to do whatever we could to help Jonathan navigate through this difficult world.
Throughout the years, it was this very belief that motivated Olga to relentlessly pursue activities and different special needs programs to enroll Jonathan in as many extracurriculars as possible. Due to Jonathan's inability to pro-actively find new things he wanted to try, we effectively had to throw him in the “deep end” and immerse him in EVERYTHING.
We signed him up for a bowling league, took him to horseback riding, as well as registered him for a special needs basketball league. These activities gave Jonathan an outlet in order to expend all his energy as well as to help him assimilate “normal” activities like his older siblings. Jonathan was not always enthusiastic or attentive during many of these activities; however our mother was still determined to at least give him as much exposure as possible to these different environments. It was precisely this determination and persistence that prompted my mother to sign Jonathan up to join a special needs running club called ROLLING THUNDER based in Long Island, NY. This nonprofit organization's sole mission was to match volunteer coaches who specialized in assisted running with the mentally disabled.
When Jonathan first joined the running club, he struggled tremendously. For the first couple of weeks, Jon could not run more then 10-15 yard without stopping, or getting distracted or wanting to lie down. In fact, Olga began running side by side with Jonathan, at times gripping his belt and effectively pulling him along the trails. Even after 2 months of practices, Jonathan was still struggling to grasp the concept of running. Olga was nearly ready to have him quit, both as a result of her fatigue from constantly pulling him and Jonathan’s inability to connect with the sport. The director and head coach of Rolling Thunder, Steve Cuomo, encouraged Olga to not give up on Jonathan and worked with her to help Jonathan continue running. That led to the fateful day when Mr. Cuomo introduced Olga to a running coach named Vincent Del-cid.
Over the upcoming months, Vincent was able to keep Jonathan ambulatory during long runs without stopping. Coach Vincent believed in Jonathan and committed to training him 3 times a week. After several months, Jonathan learned to pace himself, and he lost weight as his body responded to his steady training. Jonathan had not only found an outlet for his boundless energy, he developed a passion for the sport of running. There was no need to drag Jonathan to practices or races, he was excited to tie his shoe laces (something that took him 10 long years to master) and put on his racing singlet and meet up with coach. After only a year of training with Rolling Thunder and Coach Vincent, Jonathan was regularly participating in 5ks and 10k races and was blossoming into a serious athlete!
In early 2008, coach Vincent decided to REALLY upped the ante. An experienced endurance athlete himself, he saw something extraordinary in Jonathan and wanted to take their training to the next level.
Coach Vincent told Olga that he wanted Jonathan to run the NYC Marathon. He was adamant that Jonathan had what it took to run and complete the 26.2 long, difficult miles across all the boroughs of Manhattan!
As Jonathan's brother, my reaction consisted of a flurry of emotions. Fear, that this would be too risky an undertaking. Happy, that my brother was on the verge of doing something that many people would never accomplish in their lifetimes. Anxiety, that this could potentially damage Jonathan's love for running. Ultimately I settled on the only emotion that mattered.... gratitude. I was so utterly thankful that my brother was in the position to achieve something extraordinary; transcending his severe mental limitations to run and complete a marathon.
On November 2, 2008 Jonathan completed his first marathon in 4 hours and 48 grueling minutes (ING NYC Marathon 2008). Our family was in the stands, about 100 yards from the Finish Line when we saw a tired but strong Jonathan coming around the corner. It was a moment of pure glory, one that I will never, ever forget.
Today, Jonathan has truly evolved into a gifted runner and a tremendous athlete.
He trains all year, averaging around 20-30 miles per week. More importantly, he has inspired people from around the world with his achievements and contagious charm. As of July 2014, he has completed 12 marathons and one ultra marathon at 25 years of age.
Jonathan’s Running Resume (All Completed)
ING NYC Marathon 2008
Boston Marathon 2009
ING NYC Marathon 2009
Boston Marathon 2010
ING NYC Marathon 2010
Boston Marathon 2011
ING NYC Marathon 2011
Boston Marathon 2012
Boston Marathon 2013**
Long Island Marathon 2013
ING NYC Marathon 2013
Boston Marathon 2014
Participated in the Boston Marathon 2013 but was unable to finish due to the bombings.*
Contact Info -
Verlaine Brunot Jr
Lawyer, Musician, Autism Advocate
More information on Jonathan
Website - http://brunotverlaine.wix.com/jonathanbrunot
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/jonathan.brunot.5?ref=tn_tnmn
Submitted by Anonymous
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