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Whitney Bashaw: On the Bright Side: Cooperstown buddies to compete in Boston Marathon

The Daily Star - 12/1/2018

Dec. 01--Two lifelong friends from Cooperstown are months away from accomplishing a shared dream.

Jacob Russell and Patrick Dewey, both 21, will be running in the Boston Marathon as a team this April.

The two participate in adaptive running. Dewey, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, has a special racing chair that Russell pushes through the 26.2-mile route.

The Boston Marathon is a crown jewel for many runners, but it holds a special importance for Dewey and Russell. Rick and Dick Hoyt, who inspired the friends to start running together, are from Boston and have run the course many times.

As a freshman in high school, Russell read an article in Sports Illustrated about Team Hoyt, a father-son team who are pioneers in adaptive racing, which prompted him to ask Dewey if he might be interested.

"He wanted to give us something active and competitive to participate in," Dewey said.

Dewey said he was immediately interested. Since childhood, he attended Double H Ranch, a part of Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a camp for children with physical disabilities and illnesses, where he got to participate in a lot of physical activities. He said having those experiences made him open to Russell's. For this reason, they are running on behalf of the camp.

Their first race was the 2012 Coop Loop 5k, using Dewey's standard-use chair. Despite the extra challenge -- Dewey said the tires were shaky and it was nerve-wracking for everyone -- they took to it immediately.

"From that moment on we both loved it," Russell said. "It was a way to do activities together and for Patrick to have fuel for competition."

"I love the speed of it," Dewey said of racing. "Feeling the wind and exhilaration of it. I quickly realized that is was a way to submerge ourselves and myself in the running culture, despite my physical limitations."

Soon after, they upgraded to a racing chair, sporting larger tires, a lightweight frame and a hand brake. They continued to run, completing a half-marathon and two full marathons. They have kept up their team running even while attending different colleges. Russell is in his senior year at Harvard University and Dewey is finishing up at Edinboro University in Edinboro, Pennsylvania.

They completed the Rochester Marathon in September with a time of 3:44:08, placing them at 64 out of 100.

Of the 30,000 people racing in the Boston Marathon, there are 10 slots allotted for wheelchair teams. Russell ran the marathon alone last year after the pair didn't qualify. He said now he has a better lay of the land and knows what to expect elevation-wise.

While Russell runs solo to train -- wearing a weighted vest -- he prefers running with Dewey, he said, who makes the run more fun. Russell said he sees long-distance running as much a mental challenge as a physical one, especially around mile 20, when he starts to "hit a wall."

"That's why it's good with Patrick," Russell said. "When I reach that point, Patrick gives me good encouragement and the team aspect keeps me motivated."

To keep morale up on the long runs, Dewey hums some of their favorite tunes, mostly classic rock like "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple and "anything Led Zeppelin."

"One thing I practice is being ready to encourage Jacob to help keep our spirits up and cheer us on," Dewey said. "I also work on being ready for any weather."

The friends will be graduating from college in the spring and the path ahead is uncertain, but for now, the race is on.

To donate to their marathon campaign, visit https://tinyurl.com/CoopMarathonFund

Whitney Bashaw, staff writer, can be reached at 607-441-7218 or wbashaw@thedailystar.com . Follow her on Twitter @DS_WhitneyB

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(c)2018 The Daily Star (Oneonta, N.Y.)

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