A year ago, Brandon Lipsey was so touched by a mother's story about her sick child, he decided to participate in the Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Marathon and Half Marathon.
There was one catch: He had only two weeks to train.
With a full-time job as a contract floor technician at Battelle, he squeezed in workouts whenever he could and occasionally walked 5 miles home to his house near German Village.
Yet, on race day, he finished the marathon -- all 26.2 miles of it -- through a combination of walking and running. The camaraderie of the other runners, roar of the crowd and images of Nicholas Sawchuk, for whom he was running, were inspiring, he said.
"What was surprising is that I finished," he said. "When I got going, it was almost easier. Just the thought of Nick made it even harder to stop."
This year he plans to do the same.
Sawchuk, 12, is battling brain cancer. His mother, Jennifer Sawchuk, works at Battelle, where Lipsey learned of young Nicholas' condition.
Sawchuk, whose family lives in Lithopolis, posted pictures of her son and his story on her door.
Lipsey is one of 10 Spirit Award winners participating in the race this year.
Their "extraordinary bravery and courage" provide inspiration for the race participants, race officials said.
The winners will receive a special invitation to the Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Marathon VIP event the Friday of race weekend and will be recognized at the start line for their accomplishments.
The 34th annual marathon will be held Sunday, Oct. 20. The event starts at 7:30 a.m. near the intersection of Broad and Third streets Downtown.
The race is sold out. Race officials expect 18,000 participants -- 7,000 in the full race and 11,000 in the half marathon.
Runners from all 50 states and more than 10 countries will participate.
For the second time in as many years, it will take runners and walkers through Ohio Stadium.
More than 100 musical acts will perform along the course, which will be lined with tens of thousands of spectators, who are urged to celebrate the runners.
In German Village, for example, revelers will gather from 8:30 to 10 a.m. in Schiller Park. However, observers are asked not to hand out water or food to those participating in the race, said Sarah Irvin Clark, media director of the marathon.
Jennifer Sawchuk said Lipsey's support has been uplifting.
"I was a bit concerned that he was not sure what he was signing up for," Sawchuk said, "but he is young and determined and he persevered.
"I have become friends with Brandon and we keep in touch as far as his major milestones in life and I am so happy to have been able to inspire Brandon.
"I think that Brandon has an incredible soul and that he is a wonderful and caring young man."
She said since the race last year, Nicholas underwent his second surgery for the removal of a recurrent malignant brain tumor, followed by six weeks of radiation treatment at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center -- Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.
Those treatments started a week before Christmas. She said Nicholas spent Christmas Day at Nationwide Children's Hospital in the emergency room.
Sawchuk will join Lipsey at the starting line.
"I do everything that I do for my son," she said. "My son is courageous and strong and he has been fighting brain cancer for approaching two years."
Lipsey, 20, said he's not in it for the glory.
"It's not about what other people think," he said. "It's not about whether you'll get recognized for it.
"As long as you know that you did it," Lipsey said.
"As long as you know what you've accomplished and as long as God knows, that's all that matters. It's a good feeling. You'll always have that with you."
At 6-1, 266 pounds, Lipsey played on the offensive and defensive line for the Beechcroft High School football team. He said he hopes to enroll at Central State University this winter and major in social work.
He encourages others to follow their dreams.
"When you've got to go, just focus on it," he said. "When you focus on something you'd be surprised what you can accomplish.
"The sky's the limit."