Holden became a full-fledged half-marathoner!

Yes, Holden (who at the time, was eleven-years-old!) became a half-marathoner earlier this spring, on April 12, 2014 to be exact; just four days before his twelfth birthday. Yes, that means he ran 13.1 miles at one single time. Not only that, but he had a time goal in mind and he beat that time goal by ten minutes!! More on that later in this post.

What most people don’t realize is how long Holden had been preparing for this. Or, how we’d consulted with his doctors and his allergist (who also manages his asthma) to be assured that he was up to this enormous task and that he was healthy and in shape and was properly prepared. It’s not every day that a youngster will run this distance, though he certainly wasn’t the youngest or first, and won’t be the last.

The most important fact for everyone to know and realize though, is this is something Holden himself wanted, not something we pushed on him. He had decided last summer he wanted to try and start running longer distances, as in 10-miles or so. What this means is, he started preparing in September of 2013 for the Surf-n-Santa 10-miler in early December. He prepared for over 3 months to get ready for that race and had a time goal in mind. 1:30:00! An incredible 9:00/mile pace. While he didn’t quite make his goal, he did run a very impressive 1:35:26, considering the rainy, cold, and very windy conditions, he had nothing to be ashamed of.

A few days after that race, he said he was ready to sign up for his first half-marathon, he chose the Dismal Swamp Stomp 1/2 Marathon held in April on the beautiful Dismal Swamp Canal trail. He/we chose this one as his first half as we’d heard it was a very flat and fast course, a very good first half-marathon for anybody, let alone a youngster.

His goal?

To run the half-marathon in two hours!
As I told you previously, he beat his goal time by ten minutes!

He ran an astonishing 1:50:06!

That’s an incredible half-marathon time to begin with, but when you add it the fact that it was his first half-marathon and his first-time ever running that exact distance in addition to only being eleven-years-old, he ran an incredibly amazing race! I want to pause a moment and say a huge thank you to Amber Pratt. She had been instrumental in helping prepare Holden for this half-marathon craziness and had taken him on many, many, many long runs with her. They started these longer runs in late September or early October of 2013 and over the course of the six months leading up to the half-marathon, spent countless Sundays doing long runs around her neighborhood, etc. Holden never questioned it. He knew he had to put in the hard work and time if he wanted to have a successful half-marathon. He knew that if he didn’t properly prepare, we would pull him from the race, something he didn’t want to have happen. Amber encouraged him along with these long runs – progressively lengthening each run every weekend to where his last “longest” run before the race was 12.5 miles. He would never actually run 13.1 miles before the race, which is kind of frightening but we and he knew, that if he could run 12.5 miles, the last .6 miles should be a piece of cake. Keeping in mind that his 12.5 mile run was 1:52:43, we were pretty sure that given race-day adrenaline kicking in, and barring any unforeseen obstacles happening, that Holden should have no problem meeting his goal. Fortunately, a few days before the race, Amber decided to run the race with Holden and signed up as well. I will forever be indebted to her for that, because I know it made Holden feel a lot more comfortable, knowing that his long-run buddy was running beside him. It was all he’d known the entire time of training, so I’m glad that worked out. I would also like to thank Steve Sheppard, Dennis Welch, Aric Martinez, Heather, Thomas Hicks and all the many friends and family that supported Holden’s journey towards his goal. The running community in this area is amazing and just knowing that my son is getting to grow up knowing so many amazing individuals, is a beautiful and inspiring thing. I know we probably had some nay-sayers initially who thought we were nuts to let him attempt this. But, we had faith in his abilities and knew that he wanted to do this and that he was willing to prepare. Also of note to thanks, Darrin Snyder. An amazing friend and truly inspirational athlete. He is a hand-crank athlete and after doing an amazing race with his young protege, Rebecca Rollick, he went back out on the course to locate, encourage and finish again with Holden. It was amazing to watch all of his hard work pay off. All those long run Sundays and drives out to Suffolk? They helped prepare him for that moment at which he crossed that finish line, ten minutes faster than he had trained for!

I later heard that he had a mild panic attack and started to hyperventilate about 12.5 miles into the race. I think he had realized at that point that he was going to accomplish his goal and he got excited and a little nervous. When I saw him nearing the finish line, he looked as though he’d just begun, not like he was just finishing up 13.1 miles! Easy-going, amazing form and just ready to get it done. He didn’t even look exhausted or anything! I was so proud of him, and I know he was proud of himself too, as he should have been.

So…. to wrap up what had already been a fantastic day with his race, he got honored as the 2014 Inspirational Story of the race! The video below is from the race, and his story was also featured on the race’s website at

Because of the coverage, he also got interviewed by Wavy10 news reporter, Ariane Aramburo, for the Hampton Roads Show segment “I Am Hampton Roads”. They did an amazing job with the interview and Holden was very confident and well-spoken during his segment. That interview can be viewed at the following link, – I urge you to watch it! 🙂
So, now for the fun part – the PICTURES!!! 🙂
Check out the amazing surprise Holden got from his little “I Run 4” buddy, Calder, and family!
What a sweet way (literally, lol) to commemorate such a HUGE event for him!
(he decided the morning of the race to wear a different s/s shirt instead of the one picturedLOL)
This is the shirt he decided to wear 🙂
Supporting his IR4 buddy, Calder
spreading Spina Bifida Awareness!
Getting ready before the race by fueling with Island Boost, Yum!
Also showing off his bib number, 939!
Getting ready to race with Ms. Amber – THANKS AGAIN Amber for training and running with him! You made his first half-marathon a wonderful experience!! 🙂
Now for the EXCITING part…….. Holden’s race results/splits!
How incredible is it that he kept a nearly even pace the entire race?! I was told, even when he started to have pains in his ankles, etc that he didn’t really slow down at all. AMAZING!!!
Imagine my relief when I saw that tiny little speck come towards me in front of Chessie the bear! I had been, of course, tracking him the entire race, but couldn’t hardly believe he was going to do it, he was going to break his goal by such a large margin! AMAZING! That’s Mr. Darrin, to Holden’s left, the amazing hand crank athlete that I mentioned earlier…. he rode him all the way to nearly the end 🙂 Ms Amber is in behind Holden as she let him have his glory and let him finish ahead of her and by himself!
I want to be like him when I “grow up”!
AMAZING push to the FINISH little man!!!
Look at the air he got in his final strides!! WOW!!!
I don’t think the crowd knew what to think! LOL
They certainly didn’t expect to see this tiny body crossing the finish!
Holden and a friend of ours, Felix Tanh.
He came down from Ashburn, VA to run the race.
Holden tried to catch up to him (and very nearly did; Felix ran a 1:48:52!)
but Felix ran an amazing race!
Post-race silliness! Way to run little man!!!
Here’s Holden getting his age-group award (he was 1 of 1 in the 12 & under male group, LOL)
However, if the age group had been 15 & under he still would have placed first and if
it had been 19 & under, he would have placed THIRD! AMAZING!!!
Probably the highlight of Holden’s day, aside from actually finishing in well under his goal…..
The elite male runners were very enthusiastic about his inspiring story and shook his hand after he exited the stage. They were even more amazed at how well he’d ran. I asked if Holden could have a quick picture taken with them and they very happily obliged. Holden looks a little star struck and wasn’t sure what to think 🙂 AMAZING DAY, AMAZING RACE and AMAZING KID!
So proud to call him ours! 🙂

We can’t forget – the adorable, amazing and most inspirational tiny buddy ever, Calder!

This tiny one is Holden’s little IR4 buddy. This group pairs able-bodied runners with special needs children and adults through an online Facebook group called “I Run for Michael”. Holden got paired up with this little cutie pie a couple of weeks before his half-marathon and our whole family is in love with this cutie. He’s 4 months old and is showing Spina Bifida who is boss by being a little rockstar and defying all odds! We’re so blessed to have him and his family in our lives, even if only virtually for the time being. Holden hopes we can meet this little one and his family someday! This tiny little guy has pushed Holden to think of others, given him self-esteem that we can only help support, and has given him the inspiration to keep doing for those who might have a harder time than he has.
Thank you Danya & Zach for allowing my “tiny one” to run for your tiny one! 🙂
For more information on I Run for Michael, go to:
or look them up on Facebook at:
There are currently over 2900 runners waiting for their special buddy match. If you are the parent or caregiver of a special needs child or adult, please consider joining this amazing group. As the mother of both a special buddy and a runner (typically the runners are adults but there are a few children who are amazing enough to have their own buddies, Holden being one of them), I love this group.
The family it allows everyone to be a part of and the premise behind it; to support and love everyone, without hesitation.
Jennifer McCormick
From a non-verbal, severely autistic two-year-old little boy to a happy-go-lucky, social, verbal and friend to everyone fifteen-year-old teenager. Add in the little brother who struggles with ADHD and we've got some craziness going on! The journey has been well-worth the ups and downs and the heartbreaks are all worth it when I see my sons overcome the "impossible" and defy all odds. I couldn't be more proud. Buckle up and enjoy the ride!
Jennifer McCormick

Jennifer McCormick

From a non-verbal, severely autistic two-year-old little boy to a happy-go-lucky, social, verbal and friend to everyone fifteen-year-old teenager. Add in the little brother who struggles with ADHD and we've got some craziness going on! The journey has been well-worth the ups and downs and the heartbreaks are all worth it when I see my sons overcome the "impossible" and defy all odds. I couldn't be more proud. Buckle up and enjoy the ride!

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