A Sacramento man with nonverbal autism accomplished a remarkable feat over the weekend as he finished the California International Marathon.
John Almeda has nonverbal autism, and his passion for running started three years ago.
"It started with long walks around the neighborhood in the evening when I got off of work. One day the track around the high school was open and we walked down there and then he started running," said Vanessa Bieker, John Almeda's mom. "He was laughing and he was running really fast."
For the past few months he's been training with his coach for the California International Marathon.
On average, he runs six-minute miles and was set to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
"I left him at the starting line with the three hour pace group," said Bieker. "My first text update showed his time was a little delayed so I had friends all along the route and they were sending me videos and one of them said something is wrong with John. He's limping and he's not running his full pace. His ankle was really swollen but he refused to stop. He was determined to run and finish the 26.2 on a sprained ankle and he sure did."
Almeda will be recovering for four weeks before he's allowed to run again.
Meanwhile, his determination and story has caught the attention of so many people.
"He doesn't just have a gift of running but he also has a gift of unifying people and bringing people together, which is priceless. It's more special than the gift of running and I saw it first hand as everyone has. The whole city of Sacramento people came to see him accomplish something so big," said Ryan Battimarco, Almeda's running coach.
"I feel beyond proud of him," Bieker said. "As a mom I wanna put him in a bubble. I wanna protect him and we put him out in that race yesterday with 18,000 runners by himself."
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