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SALT LAKE CITY — On Sept. 22 at 8 a.m., 14-year-old Reese Thorne will run his first ultramarathon: a 50K around Liberty Park.
Having already run 255 races — including many 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, marathons, and even triathlons — Reese’s mom, Carla Thorne, says he’s all smiles and ready to take the step to a longer distance race.
Unlike many his age, however, Reese needs a little help getting to the finish line. Having been born with cerebral palsy, Reese logs those miles with what his mother calls "borrowed legs."
In each of his races, Reese has been pushed in a custom racing chair by several members of the Utah running community. One of those runners is Heath Thurston, who to date has pushed Reese in over a dozen races, three of which were Olympic distance triathlons. Thurston also plans to help push Reese in the 50K in September.
And while Thurston will be helping Reese reach another racing milestone, the 50k holds a special meaning for him and his family: It will help raise funds to pay for a custom racing chair for his own daughter, 15-year-old Kida Thurston, who also has cerebral palsy.
Thurston, who is a retired pro triathlete, would push Kida in strollers as he trained and said that he always admired Dick Hoyt and what he did for his son, Rick, who has cerebral palsy. He wanted to do that for his daughter and other assisted athletes. So, upon retiring from pro triathlons, Thurston began lending his legs to those who needed them, including Reese.
"I was lucky enough to be the person to push Reese in his first Olympic-distance triathlon at Echo Reservoir," Thurston said. "Seeing his smile and being his loaned legs brought me more joy and happiness than any other race that I’d won. I knew I needed to do more for other special needs athletes and my daughter."
However, after pushing Reese many times, Thurston knew that his racing chair was not up to par for the amount of racing he was doing and wanted to do. So he went to his brother-in-law, Blu Robinson, who is the founder of Addict to Athlete, asking if he could help do a fundraiser to buy Reese a real racing Team Hoyt chair. With the help of athletes, friends, family and the Team Hoyt Sandiego organization, enough money was raised for Reese’s chair.
“I absolutely love pushing these amazing athletes and being their loaned legs for a time so they can experience everything in life,” Thurston said. “I really, really love pushing my daughter Kida and just plain being with her.”
However, just like Thurston found after pushing Reese, Kida is now in need of a chair that will carry her the distance.
“Kida went through a major growth spurt a few years ago,” Thurston said. “Before that, I was always able to push her in a normal bike and run trailer, but now with her being nearly 5 feet tall and about 100 pounds, we are in need of something a bit more specialized for her to fit in and be safe.”
This is where Carla Thorne stepped in to help with the idea to have Reese run a 50K.
“We wanted to give back to Heath for all the help he has given Reese,” Carla Thorne said. “His willingness to give Reese the world of racing can never be repaid but to give him the opportunity to have those experiences with his own daughter makes me so happy.”
The 50K will be a total of 22 laps around the park, with each lap being 1.45 miles. Thorne and the event organizers are asking for individuals to push Reese for one lap and asking for a $25 minimum donation. Runners can also run laps alongside Reese for a $15 donation. The goal is to raise a minimum of $1,000 to go toward the chair for Kida.
Josh Hansen, who has already signed up to push Reese in the 50K, said that he’s looking forward to the experience.
“Being able to pay it forward by helping another assisted athlete get a chair makes this 50K even more special,” Hansen said. “That's what this 50K is really about: giving the gift of running. That's one thing I love about Carla and the Thorne family. They're always thinking about how to include others while paying it forward. How can you not want to be a part of that?”
“I hope many other people give it a go and feel the amazing power and energy that Reese and those with special needs like my daughter give you to go farther than you think is possible while pushing someone else,” Thurston said.
To sign up for Reese's Loaned Legs 50k Relay, simply go to Team Hoyt Sandiego’s donation page. You will be directed to make a donation and you will need to specify where the donation is going to in the comment section. Then go to Reese’s 50K Facebook page to specify if/when you would like to push/run with Reese. If you are not able to participate in the event, donations are welcome through the Team Hoyt SanDiego page.
All information needed can be found on the Reese's Loaned legs 50k Relay Facebook event page.