Olga knew from their very first meeting that Vincent Del-Cid was a serious, disciplined and dedicated man. It was this very knowledge that gave Olga the confidence to accept and move forward with coach Vincent's intentions regarding training Jonathan to run the NYC Marathon....a mere 8 months away in November of 2008.
This new direction was equal parts scary and audacious.... the logistics for getting a special needs runner to run and complete 26.2 miles safely were inumerable.
So many questions, So many fears....
What if training for the marathon makes Jonathan hate running?
If Jonathan can't express himself, how do we know if we are pushing too hard?
What if Jonathan sustains an injury during training and/or during the race?
How do we make sure Jonathan gets enough water and electrolytes to sustain him throughout such a long race?
Is this even possible?
Sufficed to say, there were hundreds of questions like these. There was no handbook for guiding a profoundly autistic individual amongst tens of thousands of runners. This was a terrifying journey to embark on, but coach Vincent had deservedly earned the benefit of the doubt. Olga, who now referred to Vincent as her guardian angel, quickly changed the conversation from “How can we possibly do this?” to “Let's get Jonathan ready to run the NY Marathon.”
Coach Vincent drew up a months long training schedule, training Jonathan 3x a week. In turn, the Brunot family made the requisite arrangements, making sure Jonathan had adequate transportation and familial support as he undertook this challenge.
The first major test during this journey came in the form of the Long Island Half Marathon. This would be the longest distance that Jonathan had ever covered (13.1 miles), and would be our first real indicator of what true distance running entails.
Understandably, Jonathan struggled. As the number of miles climbed to nine, ten and then eleven; Jonathan locked arms with coach Vincent for support. Coach Vincent kept Jonathan locked tightly to his body and pushed him hard all the way to the finish.
The pictures taken by event photographers truly told the story. Jonathan's face was tense as he cleared this new hurdle and Coach Vincent's face seemed drained from the exertion of supporting Jonathan those last few miles.
At the conclusion of the race, coach Vincent wasn't the least bit happy. The honeymoon phase was over and Jonathan's coach wasn't going to take it easy on his athlete.
Vincent remarked how Jonathan was “dogging it” and how he “knew Jonathan had more in him.” Coach Vincent saw potential in Jonathan, and autism or not, he was going to squeeze that potential out of him.
As the marathon date grew nearer, the training intensified. Jonathan was getting stronger and faster as he routinely completed 12 ,14 and 16 mile long training runs. By September, Jonathan was finishing upwards of 18 mile runs in training. His physical transformation went hand in hand with the uptick in training. Jonathan's legs and muscles grew stronger and more powerful. Jonathan was finishing long runs strong and his endurance skyrocketed as Olga strictly monitored and maintained his healthy diet and sleep patterns as well as adhering precisely to coach Vincent's schedule.
Months turned to weeks, until suddenly the marathon was merely days away.
On Saturday, November 1st, 2008 oldest brother Verlaine dropped Olga and Jonathan off at the Hampton Inn in Staten Island. Verlaine stretched Jonathan for a solid 20 minutes and gave him a light massage. Before tucking him into bed, the brothers sang one of Jonathan's favorite songs from Mary Poppins;
"A spoon full of sugar that is, all it takes.
It changes bread and water into tea and cakes"
That next day, at the NYC Marathon 2008....everything changed....