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Running with Autism Speaks Could Earn You an iPad!

Learn about two exciting races coming up in New York City and meet Jonathan, an inspiring young man with autism who runs marathons.

Run the New York City Marathon and Get an iPad!

This year’s event is November 3 and everyone who registers with our Autism Speaks NYC Marathon team before August 15th receives a FREE 12-week marathon training program and a $10 yurbuds gift card.

But there’s more!

  • Raise $4,000 by November 3rd and get a complimentary iPod Nano!
  • Raise $5,000 by November 3rd and get a complimentary 16 GB iPad2!

To take advantage of this offer click here and use PROMO code FREE. Once registered, you will receive your NYRR invite within 24 hours, Monday-Friday. All fundraising is required to be completed by November 3rd. Minimum team fundraising for the NYC Marathon is $3,000 per runner, and these offers are good until Autism Speaks fills all available spots.

New Runner?

If you’re not ready for the marathon, here’s a brand new race in partnership with the New York Roadrunners (NYRR) that will take place in New York’s famed Central Park on Saturday, September 7.  The men's start is at 8 a.m. and women's start is at 9 a.m., followed by a Kids Race at 10 a.m. for ages 2 -12 years old. All runners and walkers are invited to join this spectacular event.

This race is guaranteed to sell out, but Autism Speaks has 500 entries available in exchange for a minimum fundraising of $250, that includes the cost of the race entry that is paid to the NYRR, plus many benefits that can only be obtained by running as part of our team. For complete details, click here.

Meet my brother Jonathan

Jonathan loves running marathons, watching movies and musicals. Jonathan has autism.

by Verlaine Brunot

Jonathan Brunot was born on March 14, 1989, a healthy child with an expressive personality. He was the youngest of three sons and as a baby he was very socially interactive with lots of eye contact, and his vocabulary built steadily as he began to learn to speak. However, when he was about 2½ 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 was diagnosed as severely autistic, and the lives of the Brunot family changed dramatically from that moment.

Olga, Jonathan's mother, galvanized that family around the diagnosis. She approached Jonathan's autism in a powerful yet unique way that would become a consistent theme throughout Jonathan's development.

Jonathan wasn’t merely an “autistic” individual; collectively, they were an “autistic” family. 

Throughout Jonathan's development, this mantra was behind much of the decision making regarding finding the appropriate schooling and activities for Jonathan. Olga sought out as many special needs programs as possible.  As Jonathan went through his teenage years he was enrolled and engaged in a plethora of activities, such as horseback riding, swimming, and basketball, among others. The goal was to maximize Jonathan's opportunities in life and find his niche. Because of Jonathan's inability to proactively pursue new activities and endeavors, Olga took it upon herself to effectively “throw him in the deep end” and immerse him in EVERYTHING.

It was precisely this determination and persistence that prompted Olga to have Jonathan join a special needs running program called Rolling Thunder in 2007. The volunteer coaches at Rolling Thunder specialized in assisted running with the mentally disabled and they welcomed Jonathan with open arms.

When Jonathan first joined the running club he struggled tremendously. For the first couple of weeks, he could not run more than 10-15 yards without stopping, getting distracted, or wanting to lie down. In fact, Olga began running side by side with Jonathan, at times gripping his waistband to literally pull him along the trails. Despite 2 months of weekly practices, Jonathan was still not really grasping the concept of running. Olga, exhausted from pulling his weight and exasperated by his lack of progress, was ready to quit and move her son on to another activity.

Thankfully, the head coach of Rolling Thunder, Steve Cuomo, refused to allow Olga to give up on the process. He informed Olga that the point of the program was to keep pushing, even when the outcome looked bleak. It was that conversation and Olga's ultimate decision to continue with the program which led to the fateful day when Olga was introduced to a volunteer running coach named Vincent Del-cid.

Coach Vincent needed only one week to get Jonathan to finish a 3 mile trail without stopping. He saw potential in Jonathan and made it clear to Olga that he was prepared to commit to Jonathan's progress long term.

Over the next year, under Coach Vincent's weekly training, Jonathan underwent an amazing transformation. Physically, Jonathan lost around 25 pounds, as he became comfortable running longer distances and trained 3 times a week. He went from 15 minutes per mile (for a 5k race) all the way down to under 8 minutes! Socially, Jonathan was developing a clear love and passion for the sport of running. On “running” days, Jonathan would come from school happy and eager to put on his shorts and sneakers to go run with Coach Vincent.

Jonathan had found his niche; he was a runner and he loved to run.

After a year and a half of consistent training, Jonathan was running 5k and 10k races almost every weekend and the Brunot family was proud and excited to rally behind his accomplishments. However, Coach Vincent decided to REALLY up the ante.

Coach Vincent informed the family that he intended to train Jonathan to run and finish the ING NYC Marathon. He challenged that family to put their trust in him to help Jonathan successfully navigate 26.2 long, difficult miles across all the boroughs of Manhattan! Coach Vincent had already accomplished so much with Jonathan that this new goal simply became the next challenge.

On November 2, 2008 (at the age of 19) Jonathan completed his FIRST marathon in 4 grueling hours and 49 minutes and 8 seconds. He battled through cramps and frequent bathroom breaks to finally reach the finish line in Central Park with his family happily and loudly cheering for his accomplishments from the finish line bleachers.

Today, Jonathan Brunot is a charming, 24 year old, autistic marathon runner. He has 10 marathons and 1 ultra-marathon under his belt and is showing ZERO signs of slowing down.

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
  • Ultra-Marathon Long Island (30 miles)

Despite his incredible success as a runner, Jonathan's autism can still present tremendous difficulties. Jonathan can't regulate his bodily needs, so his coaches are always nearby to keep him well hydrated and help him replenish his electrolytes, as well as to deal with any of the potentially dangerous situations that can arise when running amongst tens of thousands of runners. In many ways, Jonathan's coaches take on the role of coach, parent, medic, nutritionist and special needs instructor each and every time they sacrifice their bodies to help him reach the finish line.

Yes, autism is a lifelong neurological disorder, but with lots of love, positive attitude and training, an autistic individual is only limited by the constraints that we put upon them. The joy and happiness that we experience as a family each time we see Jonathan run towards the finish line cannot be encapsulated in words.

Jonathan's running has given us a beautiful gift – an experience that galvanizes us around our champion and his triumphs. In essence, we are rewarded every time we see him put on his running shoes; beset by a gleaming smile and an eagerness to get out some of that boundless energy by running for miles and miles. 

Jonathan is my youngest brother. He could not speak or write this on his own so I had to speak for him. Jonathan inspires me each and every day... and he doesn't even know it! We don't care about his time or his pace; watching Jonathan run is one of the most fulfilling experiences of our lives, and we are simply overjoyed that he can keep this gift for as long as his legs can carry him.


The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.