Lessons My Son Teaches Me While Running

Posted on Aug 5, 2022, by

By Dan Langlois, ThedaCare Half Marathon participant

It’s probably pretty common to hear from distance runners that their family inspires them to keep going. That’s true for me too. My reason for running is my son, Gabriel. He’s 12 years old and is dependent on the use of a wheelchair because he has spina bifida. What you might not guess though, is that we are in this sport together and are currently training to participate in our longest running event to date.

Gabriel’s interest in running began at age four when he participated in his first 5K with the help of  MyTEAM Triumph.  Once Gabriel reached fourth grade, we joined the school running club that culminates each year with the Ascension 5K Run/Walk. When Gabriel expressed his interest in running, I knew I couldn’t let him have all of the fun – before I knew it, I was right alongside him!


Any parent knows that getting dedicated time with each child is meaningful, and I am thankful for the one-on-one time with him. I would be remiss though if I did not acknowledge my wife for the time she puts in to allow me to train with Gabriel. Sometimes we can be training for two to three hours, but she always is willing to let me go with him to prepare for our next race.

Through all the runs with Gabriel, what I didn’t expect when I started running with him was the many life lessons he’d teach along the way. Even without the use of his legs, Gabriel is the best motivator, teacher and running coach I could ask for.

While we rack up the miles he teaches me about perseverance, dedication and shares his contagious positivity.

Most recently, we ran the Bellin 10K together. Our race went so well that Gabriel asked for a longer route! Enter: The ThedaCare Half Marathon.

With his positive spirit and somehow limitless energy, Gabriel gets up every day and practices up and down the roads within our neighborhood. On weekends, I join him and together we log 4-5 miles each Friday night and another 10 or so on Saturdays.

No matter how hard it gets, or what obstacles get in his way, he always sees his way to the finish line.

And that’s true for all my children.

My wife and I have four adopted kids who each have unique needs that range from the impacts of fetal alcohol syndrome to autism, cerebral palsy and spina bifida. Their perseverance despite challenges never ceases to impress and inspire us.

I strive every day to be a little more like them.

Watch for me and Gabriel on the half marathon course this September and who knows – maybe we will be back next year to run a full marathon. It’s up to Gabriel!

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